It may look like a relatively minor update over its predecessor, but Panasonic’s latest enthusiast-focused compact is still an excellent camera
Panasonic LX100 II: Performance
A camera aimed this squarely at demanding enthusiast photographers needs to perform flawlessly, and for the most part, the LX100 II does exactly that. It’s quick to start up when you flick the power switch, and responds instantly to both the physical controls and the touchscreen. The analogue controls make it a joy to shoot with, while the touch interface speeds up changing secondary settings and browsing images in playback. It’s an excellent fusion of the traditional and the modern: indeed if you’ve ever been tempted by a Fujifilm X100-series camera but would prefer a zoom lens, the LX100 is pretty much the camera you need.
It’s discreet too, with the relatively small body making it much less intimidating to shy subjects compared to a bulky DSLR. Turn off the various electronic operational noises and the fake shutter sound, and it becomes practically silent, regardless of whether you employ the mechanical or electronic shutter. This is a big advantage for candid or street photography.
The metering system generally does a good job, although I noticed a certain bias towards underexposure, especially in flat lighting conditions. One point worth noting is that the viewfinder brightness doesn’t appear to adjust to match the ambient light, which means that when you’re shooting in relatively dark conditions it can appear overly-bright, and encourage you to underexpose even further. So it’s always worth keeping an eye on the live histogram.
Panasonic hasn’t always been known for the quality of its JPEG output, but this is one area where the LX100 II pleasantly surprised me. In its standard setting the camera provides attractive, if slightly muted colours, while the auto white balance generally delivers well-judged results with just an occasional tendency to err on the cool side of neutral. In sunlit autumn conditions, engaging the Vivid colour setting and the daylight WB preset gave me images with vibrant, punchy but not too overblown colour. As always you’ll get the best results shooting raw, but with the LX100 II, the gap is narrower than with any previous Lumix compact.
Last but not least, the lens is an extremely good performer, combining impressive sharpness at large apertures with attractively-blurred backgrounds. Its optical image stabilisation also works very well, and I was able to get sharp images hand-held at shutter speeds as low as ½ sec at wideangle. Its main flaw is a serious susceptibility to producing broad, multi-coloured flare patterns when shooting directly into the sun.