Some of the most beloved premium compact cameras in the last decade are Panasonic’s LX-series. They always offered larger-than-average sensors but, from the LX3 onwards, the big draw of those cameras has been their fast lenses. The last LX model was the Lumix DMC-LX7, introduced back in fall of 2012. Since then, LX-series enthusiasts have been chomping at the bit for something new.
Given the rise of cameras with 1″-type sensors from the likes of Sony, Samsung, and now Canon, LX-series enthusiasts were hoping for the same in the next model. Well, we’ve got bad news for you: the new Lumix DMC-LX100 doesn’t have one. Instead, Panasonic has somehow managed to squeeze in a Four Thirds sensor, whose area is twice as large as a 1″ sensor and five times bigger than the 1/1.7″ sensor in the LX7.
There is a caveat here, which is that the LX100 isn’t actually using the entire sensor, instead cropping it to allow for multi-aspect shooting (just as its predecessor did). Thus, the effective sensor area on the LX100 is really 1.5X larger than 1″ and 4.3X the size of 1/1.7″. In our experience, the added creative encouragement offered by the multi-aspect approach, combined with a conveniently-placed aspect ratio switch is more valuable than the extra couple of megapixels and larger lens that a full-sensor design would require.
|The hallmark feature of the LX100 is its Four Thirds sensor which, as we mentioned, is significantly larger than any other zoom compact save for the PowerShot G1 X II and its predecessor. If Panasonic used the entire 16 megapixel Four Thirds sensor it would be twice the size of the 1″ sensors found on the likes of the Canon PowerShot G7 X and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, but the camera’s multi-aspect ratio requires a crop, so the difference is actually 1.5X. Even so, that’s a considerable advantage, especially when combined with the LX100’s fast lens.|
Another big feature on the LX100 is its lens, which has a maximum aperture range of F1.7-2.8 and an effective focal range of 24-75mm. When you combine the fast lens and large sensor the LX100 ends up being a pretty impressive camera for those who like shallow depth-of-field. And should also mean greatly improved low light shooting.
|This graph plots the equivalent focal lengths and apertures of the LX100 against its immediate rivals. That is, it compares the zoom range and apertures on a common basis. Lower down the diagram is better, all else being equal.|
So, while the LX100 is a considerably larger camera than its predecessors, its larger sensor means it promises to be a more capable one. Whereas the LX3 competed with the Canon PowerShot G10’s 1/1.7″ sensor, the LX100 looks ready to trade blows with the PowerShot G1 X II. The level of direct control is increased, in proportion to its greater ambitions; with dedicated aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials.
The styling of the LX100 is also significantly different from previous LX models, borrowing much more from Panasonic’s DMC-L1 DSLR and LC1 high-end compact than from the LX series. The result is a bigger camera but also a considerably more serious one, and one that’s pretty good looking.
Panasonic LX100 key features
- 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor (Up to 12.7MP used)
- 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens
- Multi-aspect feature maintains diagonal angle-of-view at 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9
- Venus Engine from DMC-GH4 and DMC-FZ1000
- XGA-resolution electronic viewfinder (1024 x768 pixels)
- Aperture and control dials around lens, shutter speed dial on top plate
- 3″ 921k dot LCD
- 11 fps continuous shooting (6.5 with C-AF)
- 4K video recording at 30p and 24, Full HD at up to 60p
- In-camera Raw conversion
- Wi-Fi with NFC
As you can see, that’s a pretty extensive list but, as it turns out, it’s only a list of the headline specifications of the camera. The LX100 also includes a time-lapse function, the ability to create in-camera stop motion videos and a host of other specialist features. We cover as many of these as is practical in our full review, but aren’t able to go into depth about everything.
Those who enjoy Panasonic’s Creative Effects can now use them in A/S/M mode. A new timed exposure is essentially a bulb mode where you choose how long the exposure is. In addition to 4K video, the LX100 also has a 4K Photo mode, which lets you use the aspect ratio of your choice. The camera also offers an electronic shutter option for silent shooting.
One trade-off that comes from the addition of an EVF is the loss of the flash. Panasonic includes a clip-on compact external flash in the box that has a guide number of 7m at ISO 100. The in-lens shutter on the camera can sync with the flash all the way up to its 1/4000th of a second upper limit. The electronic shutter that extends beyond that cannot be used with flash.
|Lumix DMC-LX7||Lumix DMC-LX100||PowerShot G1 X II|
(Area of 4:3 crop)
|Focal length (35mm equiv).||24-90m||24-75mm||24-120mm|
|Max aperture||F1.4 – F2.3||F1.7 – F2.8||F2.0 – F3.9|
|Multi-aspect||Yes (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)*||Yes (4:3, 3:2)|
|Minimum focus distance||1cm – 30cm||3cm – 30cm||5cm-40cm|
|ISO range (fully expanded)||80 – 12800 **||100 – 25600||100 – 12800|
|Viewfinder||Optional 1.44m dot EVF||Built-in 2.76m dot equiv EVF, optional OVF||Optional EVF 2.76M dot EVF|
|Display||3″ LCD (920k dot)||3″ LCD (920k dot)||3″ LCD (1.04m dot) touch screen|
|Burst rates (S-AF, C-AF)||11 fps, 5 fps||11 fps, 6.5 fps||5.2 fps, 3.0 fps|
|External controls||Aperture||Aperture, focus, shutter speed, exposure comp||Lens control dial and rear-plate thumb dial|
|Built-in flash||Yes||No (external included)||Yes|
|Wi-Fi||No||Yes (with NFC)||Yes (with NFC)|
|Battery life (CIPA)||330 shots||300 shots||240 shots|
|Weight (Inc. battery)||298g||393g||553g|
|Dimensions||111 x 67 x 46mm||115 x 66 x 55mm||116 x 74 x 66mm|
* Different angle of view offered in 1:1 shooting
** Highest ISO images only at reduced resolution
The impressive thing to note is how much smaller and lighter the LX100 is than the G1 X II and that it’s not dramatically larger than the LX7. It’s enough of the difference that the LX100 will probably have to go in a coat pocket or the corner of a bag, but it’s still a lot smaller than a comparable interchangeable lens camera.
Kit options and accessories
The LX100 has a list price of $899/. This is $100 more than the Canon G1 X II’s launch price, but the LX100 includes a built-in viewfinder, as well as 4K video capture, both of which the Canon lacks.
A cool accessory that Panasonic will be offering is the auto lens cap you see above. We’ve seen this sort of lens protector from Ricoh and Olympus before, but we still think they’re fun.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 specifications
|Body type||Large sensor compact|
|Max resolution||4112 x 3088|
|Other resolutions||4112 x 3088, 4272 x 2856, 4480 x 2520, 3088 x 3088, 2976 x 2232, 3120 x 2086, 3840 x 2160, 2240 x 2240, 2048 x 1536, 2112 x 1408, 1920 x 1080, 1536 x 1536|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9|
|Effective pixels||13 megapixels|
|Sensor photo detectors||17 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Color filter array||Primary color filter|
|ISO||Auto, 200-25600 (expands to 100-25600)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||100|
|White balance presets||5|
|Custom white balance||Yes (4 slots)|
|JPEG quality levels||Fine, standard|
|File format||JPEG (DCF/EXIF v2.3)Raw (RW2)|
|Image parameters||ContrastSharpnessNoise ReductionSaturationColor ToneFilter Effect|
|Optics & Focus|
|Focal length (equiv.)||24–75 mm|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View|
|Autofocus assist lamp||Yes|
|Digital zoom||Yes (4X)|
|Normal focus range||50 cm (19.69″)|
|Macro focus range||3 cm (1.18″)|
|Number of focus points||49|
|Screen / viewfinder|
|Minimum shutter speed||60 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/4000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/16000 sec|
|Exposure modes||ProgramAperture priorityShutter priorityManual|
|Flash range||7.00 m (with included external flash at ISO 100)|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe)|
|Flash modes||Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, on, on w/redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction, off|
|Continuous drive||11.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 or 10 sec)|
|Exposure compensation||±3 (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)|
|Resolutions||3840 x 2160 (30p, 24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 30p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480|
|Storage types||SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I)|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|Wireless notes||802.11b/g/n with NFC|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||300|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||393 g (0.87 lb / 13.86 oz)|
|Dimensions||115 x 66 x 55 mm (4.53 x 2.6 x 2.17″)|
4K Photo Mode
As well as letting you grab stills from its 4K footage, the LX100 also offeres Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode that aims to shoot footage specifically with the aim of recovering still images from it.
4K Photo mode allows you to shoot 4K footage in non-video aspect ratios. It tries to shoot at much faster shutter speeds than you’d tend to use for movie shooting (since the aim is to freeze motion for individual pictures, rather than create blur to smooth the difference between frames). 4K Photo mode will also allow the autofocus to shoot at full speed, rather than slowing it, as it does during movie recording, to create smoother transitions.
We looking at this feature (also offered on the GH4 and FZ1000), in more detail in this separate article. As an example, though, this is a still taken from the standard 4K video (with iDynamic High):
The LX100 uses essentially the same WI-Fi system that Panasonic has used on its cameras for a while now. It includes NFC for faster connection to compatible smartphones. As with previous models it offers the option to connect the camera directly to other devices or via an existing Wi-Fi network. It offers a whole host of options, including automatic download of photos back to a computer or transfer to social networks, but getting these working can be difficult, (something we’ve found with the majority of Wi-Fi enabled cameras).
|Panasonic’s Image App allows remote control of the camera, as well as image transfer. Sadly the app cannot distribute images to social networks – that relies on your smart device.|
|The remote control function gives a good degree of control, access to parts of the Q.Menu as well as exposure settings, focus and zoom.|
The camera is arguably at its best when connected directly to a smart device so that it can be remotely controlled and its images transferred across. This passes the responsibility for Internet uploading to the smart device, rather than having to establish a connection to Panasonic’s Lumix Club, and set up all your onward connections from there.
It’s easy enough to create that initial connection, using either NFC, a QR Code that your smart device can scan or by manually typing in the login details of the network created by the camera. With the app installed, it only takes a few minutes to get going and the camera can store presets of previous connections to make re-connecting faster.
The LX100’s autofocus is among the fastest of any compact on the market. It uses the ‘Depth by Defocus’ system that Panasonic first introduced with the DMC-GH4. This uses a profile of the lens’ rendering of out-of-focus regions to assess subject distance.
We’ve had very few mis-focused shots from the LX100 and it remains pretty successful at focusing in low light with the Illuminator turned off, so long as you try to focus on an area with a good amount of contrast.
There’s good news about focus tracking, too: in our testing and usage the LX100 seems much more successful at locking onto a subject than the GH4 was. This is a particular benefit for movie shooting, where the camera can be locked-onto a subject with a pretty good degree of confidence that it will then continue to follow that subject. The focus can’t always keep up with fast-moving subjects, but does a good job of tracking where they are (in this video, for instance, the camera kept track of where the puck was but the focus only catches up at the end of the clip). The biggest downside is that the camera will tend to flutter its focus occasionally when fixed on a static object, as it re-confirms that it is still in focus.
The LX100 may build on the reputation built-up by previous LX models but its ambitions are much greater. Rather than trying to compete with other enthusiast compacts, the LX100 has aimed directly for the top spot. It’s not the zoom compact with the biggest sensor (that would be Canon’s G1 X Mark II), but its bright lens should, in theory, counteract that. Only the potentially limiting 24-75mm equivalent range stops it looking like the standout king of specifications.
It’s is a big camera, compared to any other compact and we certainly wouldn’t call it pocketable. However, it’s smaller that any interchangeable lens camera with the same zoom range and effective brightness and it offers a level of direct control you won’t find on many other cameras.
Then there are the camera’s video capabilities – the LX100 can shoot 4K (UHD) video in 30 or 24p (or 25 and 24p if you buy it in Europe). But how good a job has Panasonic done, in terms of turning such promising specifications into a well-rounded, usable camera?
- Excellent stills image quality – especially in Raw
- Unsurpassed combination of large sensor and bright lens
- Impressive and usable video capabilities
- Comprehensive and well-designed direct controls (with good customization options)
- Fast, responsive behavior
- Classic looks and handling provide gratifying user experience
- Packed with features (4K Photo, Stop Motion Animation, Time Lapse)
- Extensive Wi-Fi options
- Image stabilization effectively stabilizes stills (less useful for video)
- JPEG noise reduction and sharpening are rather crude at low ISOs
- Lens range can be limiting
- 12MP may not be enough for some users
- Manually positioning an AF point is awkward (and workaround limits customization choices)
- Focus peaking often too subtle to see
- Separate clip-on flash simply inconvenient
- Lack of ND filter usually means external filters are needed for outdoor video
- Electronic viewfinder contrast and color benefit from adjustment
- Viewfinder can show ‘tearing’ effect, which will distract some users
- Noticeable lag switching from shooting mode to playback (even with a fast SD card)
- Filter and iA buttons on top plate poorly used and not customizable
The LX100’s image quality is amongst the best we’ve ever seen from a compact. The JPEG engine benefits from a little tweaking and, even after reducing noise reduction and sharpening, still might not always produce images to everyone’s tastes (though we’ve been pretty happy with the results).
|The JPEGs won’t be to everyone’s tastes but I was pretty happy with the results I got out of the camera. This is a from-camera JPEG shot in evening sunshine with saturation set to +2.|
However, the key thing is that, despite its ambitious design, the lens performs well across most focal lengths and apertures, and the sensor performance means the camera is able to lives up to the expectations its spec sheet sets. Taken together, this means the LX100 will continue to offer excellent image quality in a broad range of shooting conditions.
In Raw the LX100 will comfortably match its high-end rivals (the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IIIand Canon PowerShot G7 X), gleefully trump what should be its closest competitor (the G1 X II) and delight in rendering the rest of the enthusiast compact crowd irrelevant. That’s not enough to gain it honorary membership of the prime-lens, APS-C club but it narrows the gap like never before.
The LX100 has some of the best and most extensive controls of any compact camera, with direct controls for most key parameters and plenty of customization to access the modes and features you want to use. For most shooting situations, if the camera doesn’t have a dedicated control, you can configure it to be straight-forward to use. Overall it’s a pleasant camera to take control over – not just when compared to other enthusiast compacts, but by any standards.
|I was frustrated that the ‘Filter’ button on the camera’s top plate can’t be reassigned, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like any of the processing effects the camera can offer. This is ‘Dramatic Mono’ and does a good job of living up to that title.|
It’s not entirely beyond reproach, though. Manually positioning the AF point is disappointingly fiddly and you quickly run out of customizable buttons if you try to fix this by re-dedicating the four-way controller. It’s unquestionably a camera that would benefit from a touch screen. There are few quirks that can’t be worked-round in an acceptable way.
We’re pleased to see the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder, though it’s a long way from being the best we’ve encountered. Its color rendition and contrast are dramatically different from the rear LCD and the field-sequential design can produce a rainbow-like tearing effect that some people find distracting. It’s invaluable in bright light, though, and allows the use of a stable to-the-eye shooting stance. Not everyone was delighted to find that the camera’s flash is a separate, non-adjustable block that lives in a drawstring pouch, though the provision of a hotshoe does at least give you options, if you regularly like to strobe.
The Final Word
It should be apparent that we really liked the LX100. It’s not a small camera, but it’s not that much bigger than the likes of the Canon PowerShot G12, which people happily carried around. And, importantly, it offers significantly better image quality than pretty much any zoom compact ever made. It’s not a camera entirely without flaws but most of them are so minor that it’s unlikely they’ll ever be more than slight irritations about a camera you’ll love.
Other than size, it’s the camera’s zoom range that stops it being the ideal camera for a majority of dedicated photographers. I did find the 24-75mm equivalent range a touch restrictive, but it’s the only major concern I had: my overall experience has been much more about what the camera can do than what it can’t. The LX100 is a pleasure to use and offers superb image quality. I’d consider it one of the best photographers’ cameras on the market and probably the best zoom compact ever made.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera||Compare mode|
|Build qualityErgonomics & handlingFeaturesMetering & focus accuracyImage quality (raw)Image quality (jpeg)Low light / high ISO performanceViewfinder / screen ratingOpticsPerformanceMovie / video modeConnectivityValue||PoorExcellent|
|ConclusionThe LX100 is a very specific tool – a usefully small camera with an impressively bright lens and good sized sensor. Its short zoom and low pixel count will limit its appeal but dependable image quality and excellent hands-on controls make this one of the best zoom compacts we’ve ever tested.|
|Good forKeen photographers looking for a no-compromise second camera. Someone looking for an engaging and flexible photographic tool.Not so good forAnyone looking for a pocketable compact camera. Someone planning to stay in Auto mode.|