Is the Panasonic LX7 the best pocket-sized compact for enthusiasts? We find out in the What Digital Camera Panasonic LX7 review
Panasonic’s line of LX series has proved to be a popular choice for photographers looking for a pocket-sized compact to travel with when they couldn’t take their DSLR. But with some rivals now offering larger sensors in similar sized bodies, does the new LX7 pack enough punch to beat thecompetition?
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Features
Whereas Sony opted for a large 1in sized sensor in its RX100, Panasonic has actually opted for a 1/1.7in sensor that’s a touch smaller than the 1/1.63in CCD found in its LX5 model. The newly designed High Sensitivity MOS offers a resolution of 10.1MP and multiple aspect ratios, so as well as utilising the full area of the sensor with a 4:3 aspect ratio, there are also 16:9, 3:2 and 1:1 ratios on offer.
The ISO range is improved over the LX5, now with a standard ceiling of 6400, while an ISO equivalent of 12,800 is also possible, though resolution is reduced to 3.1MP just like it was with the LX5.
While the zoom coverage remains the same at 24-90mm compared to the LX5, there’s been some big changes to the optics. The slight change in sensor size has helped Panasonic deliver a maximum aperture of f/1.4 at 24mm, improving on the LX5’s f/2 offering and providing the fastest optic in its class along with the also recently announced Samsung EX2F. The optical zoom extends to 90mm like the LX5, with the maximum aperture now only dropping down to f/2.3 compared to f/3.3 on the LX5.
On top of that, there’s an internal Neutral Density (ND) filter with a 3-stop filtration should you want to shoot at wide apertures in bright conditions and avoid over-exposing the shot, while the LX7 also offers the choice of Face Detection, AF Tracking, 23-Area and 1-Area focusing modes.
The rear screen has doubled in resolution to a now pretty standard 920k-dot TFT LCD display, while there’s the option to attach Panasonic’s LVF2 external electronic viewfinder should you want to compose your shots in the more traditional way. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you already own the LVF1, the accessory port is different so it won’t fit.
For video capture, the LX7 can record Full HD video in either AVCHD at 50fps or in MP4 at 25fps depending on your desired output preference. There’s also a stereo microphone just in front of the hotshoe.
With Creative Control there are 16 artistic effects to choose from, including Radial Defocus and Smooth Defocus, as well as other filters like Retro, Dynamic Monochrome and High Dynamic.
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Design
Thanks to its predominantly metal exterior finish, the LX7 retains the same high-end quality feel as the LX5, with the revised hand grip providing a nice and comfortable hold.
Compared to the LX5, there have been some subtle tweaks to the LX7. It’s a touch taller and a little fatter – this can be attributed to some extent to the faster lens and the presence of a aperture ring round the front of the lens. However, unlike some other compacts that offer a range of programmable settings for the aperture ring, the LX7’s is used exclusively for aperture control.
Behind the aperture ring on the lens is the aspect ratio selector, while on the side of the lens is an additional selector for focus, with the choice of AF, Macro and MF. Along the top and the most obvious change from the LX5 is the inclusion of the stereo mics. Otherwise, it’s virtually identical to its predecessor – you’ll find a built-in flash tucked away in the body, while the hotshoe will allow a range of accessories to be attached, including the already mentioned LVF2 electronic viewfinder.
Turning to the back of the LX7 and, again, existing users of previous models will feel right at home as the layout is virtually identical to the LX5. There’s a command dial just next to the thumb rest, while there’s a four-way d-pad and Q menu to quickly change settings should you need to. The only change is the inclusion of the ND/Focus switch that sits between the accessory port and command dial. Press down and move it to the left to activate the ND filter, while moving the switch left or right carries out manual focus, with the area of interest enlarged on the rear screen to ensure the shot is sharp.
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Performance
The LX7 delivers fast and precise AF in either 1-Area, 23-Area or Face Detection AF modes, though it’s unreasonable to expect too much from the AF Tracking mode – while it will lock onto a subject and move with it, it’s suited to slow-moving subjects. That aside though, which is not unique to the LX7, there’s little to quibble about with the AF performance.
It’s also very easy to swap from auto to macro focusing thanks to the switch on the side of the lens, while swapping to manual focus is just as easy. The inclusion of a focus jog-switch is also welcome, making manual focus much easier than its predecessor.
This is also helped by the higher resolution 920k-dot screen, and though very good, doesn’t quite deliver the same clarity as the WhiteMagic display on the Sony RX100 or the AMOLED display used by some Samsung models. When shooting, there’s a handy dual-axis, electronic level which proves really handy when composing shots, while there’s the choice of display/shooting options that can be selected.
The new aperture ring is welcome, with it providing positive clicks every third of a stop and the tolerance is just about right – stiff enough to ensure the aperture won’t get easily knocked out of position, while easy enough to sweep through the aperture range if required. While you could argue that it would have been nice if the aperture ring was programmable for a range of settings, it isn’t an issue in use. The rear command dial can be used to set exposure compensation or the shutter speed when in full manual mode, while the Quick menu provides access to the LX7’s core settings. Not only that, but the four-way d-pad allows Drive, White Balance and ISO to be set.
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Image Quality
Tone and Exposure
In our tests, the LX7 coped well under a range of lighting conditions, delivering pleasing exposures. If we’re being picky, images may be a little overexposed on some occasions, but this is negligible and is easily corrected in post-processing, especially if you’re shooting Raw.
White Balance and Colour
The LX7’s Auto White Balance delivers pleasing results under a range of conditions, with consistent results between shots of the same scene. Results could be seen as a little cool in some instances, while the colours are a little muted also. There are other Photo Styles available though should you want slightly punchier colours – as well as Standard, there’s Vivid, Natural, Mono, Scenery, Portrait and Custom.
Sharpness and Detail
Considering the relatively smaller sensor size and 10.1MP resolution, the LX7 delivers some impressive results. Detail is good, though it won’t resolve to quite the same extent as larger sensor rivals.
The lens is nice and sharp, with very minimal distortion at the wide end of the focal range that’s pretty much unnoticeable in real-world shots. At wider apertures, there’s a hint of purple fringing, but once the lens is stopped down, this is reduced.
At low ISOs the LX7 delivers some really smooth results with no apparent image noise present. Above ISO 1600, image noise becomes more pronounced, compromising detail, though colour saturation doesn’t tend to suffer. While it handles it well for a camera with this or similar sized sensor, it can’t quite compete with one of its main rivals, the Sony RX100, which has the benefit of a larger sensor.
Raw vs JPEG
The LX7 is bundled with SilkyPix Raw converter and side-by-side with the JPEG file, the unedited Raw file displays a lot more detail in the image, which is most noticeable at higher ISOs. The payback though is the presence of more noticeable chroma noise, which is more predominant on the image compared to the JPEG file that’s been subjected to image noise reduction.
Value & Verdict
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Value
At £449, the LX7 finds itself priced pretty competitively and positioned in the middle of the sector, with more affordable and pricier enthusiast compact models out there to pick from.
Panasonic Lumix LX7 review – Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the LX7. The metal-finish body produces a classy, high-end feel that doesn’t disappoint, while the ability to add an EVF is bound to appeal to the more discerning shooter. On top of that, the controls, interface and now the addition of the aperture ring make this a very fast and enjoyable camera to shoot with.
With rivals opting for larger sensors, the decision to actually use a smaller sensor in the LX7 than its predecessor is a brave one. While it can’t quite deliver the same levels of detail and ISO performance as the RX100, it’s still very good, while you also have to factor in the faster lens throughout the range that the LX7 offers.
While it may not quite have the same standout features as some rivals, the LX7’s strength lies in the fact that it really doesn’t have a weak one, delivering a solid performance in pretty much every area, producing a very polished and competent enthusiast compact camera.