Released in 2014, the Panasonic Lx100 is by no means a ‘latest and greatest’ Piece of kit. However, it is still in production amongst a number of newer cameras in its category, and for good reason. Anyone looking for a very compact solution for taking high quality images may find that this camera fulfils their photographic needs. In this review, I’ll be giving my thoughts as a long term stills user of the Lx100 along with some sample photographs that I’ve taken whilst owning it.
Design and tech
If you like the style of traditional photography mixed with modern tech, you’ll love the fact that the Lx100 has Manual control dials and levers. One dial for Shutter Speed, a second for exposure compensation and an aperture control dial fitted around the lens. You can program a smooth ring behind the aperture dial to your tastes. (I’ve set it to control ISO) To the left hand side of the lens you’ll find a dial to switch between focus modes: autofocus, macro autofocus and manual focus. The control of a DSLR in a small package! No more toggling through complicated menus to set your exposure. 👍 The quality metal construction feels solid, as you’d expect from a compact camera at this price . There is no tiltable/flipout screen or touch screen. These are very desirable features but it’s probably a sacrifice made to keep its size down. A bonus is that it has a hotshoe to add flashes. Great!
A Sensor that’s Larger than ‘large’
The Lx100 is reffered to as a ‘high end compact’ camera not just because of its price, (currently retailing for £499) but the technology that’s crammed into its relatively small body. Most high end compact cameras have a 1 inch type sensor, which is much larger than the ones found in your standard point and shoot cameras. (The latter have largely been superseded by smartphones anyway) This means that they are able to gather in more light and produce higher quality images.
The Lx100 takes this concept further and has a four thirds sensor. Much larger than the one inch type sensors found in most other high end compacts. The difference in quality will be evident in low light scenarios as seen in the two images above.
A high quality and versatile lens
To assist the sensor with image quality, Panasonic have been very generous with the lens that is featured on the Lx100. It’s a Leica Vario -Summilux 24 -75mm equivalent f1.7-2.8. A fast, versatile lens with a decent zoom range and capable of beautiful bokeh. (bokeh is the quality of the out of focus areas of a photograph. Often seen in Portraits or Macro shots)
Imagine how much you’d be expected to pay for a lens like that on its own to match a camera body you’d already spent a small fortune on, yet this is part of the Lx100 as standard! It is a fixed lens (which means you won’t be able to swap it for other lenses) but nevertheless a great one that will surpass most people’s needs for a compact camera. This lens features a screw thread to add additional features such as filters. I’d recommend a graduated filter if you intend on shooting very bright scenes as the lens can be prone to flare in some situations.
4k Video Recording
There is a button at the back of the camera dedicated to video. You can record up to 4k resolution which is a nice feature to have in a little body. As a stills photographer, I haven’t had much experience using this feature. For a review of the Lx100’s video capabilities click here
What’s it like to use?
This is definitely aimed at photography enthusiasts who want something lightweight. There is a learning curve to using it, but once you’ve got it you are good to go. I’ve typically found using the Lx100 an enjoyable experience. Have you ever had one of those cameras that you hold and instantly think ‘I need to go and take some photos!’? For me this is one of those cameras. It’s light-weight, sturdy construction feels premium and it’s rubber gripping on the front and rear make it comfortable to hold. It’s not pocketable, and there are definitely smaller options out there, but they be a bit more finicky to operate, and won’t give you that beautiful lens.
After owning this for a good length of time, I’m still pleasantly surprised when reviewing photos that I’ve taken with this camera. A very good amount of detail is resolved and colours are often accurate. It won’t match that of the highest end DSLR’s for sure, but it’s far superior to what any smartphone or point and shoot can produce, and can definitely give some other enthusiast cameras a run for their money.
This is far from a ‘perfect’camera (is there any such thing anyway?!) The resolution of the sensor is just under 13 megapixels. (12.8 To be exact) This is absolutely fine for my needs (a secondary lighter camera) and I know of people using this camera for some of their professional work, but I know that some will say no to this even as a secondary lighter option.
As mentioned before, a flip out rotational or tiltable screen would have been a nice addition for those awkwardly high or low shots. This limits the kind of photographs you can get, but people still get along with smartphones and have got along with cameras before vari-angle and touch screens were a standard feature. Again it keeps the cameras size down, and test your personal skills if you like a challenge. If you like the camera enough, you’ll live with it.
There will also be obvious limitations when it comes to zoom range. 24-75mm equivalent will limit some peoople for the kind of shots they are looking for. For example If you are looking to shoot wildlife or sports, this would not be the camera for you, but for most other things this camera will do the job more than decently for a camera of this size when you know how to use it.
Does this camera challenge top end DSLR’s? No. Does it have a particular ‘blow you away outstanding’ feature? Not really. Panasonic has achieved what it set to achieve here. A high quality, feature packed and compact solution at a decent price for its features. This is that tool, and a serious one too. Even after a few years, It’s styling, power and usability make it a tour de force in the high end compact camera arena.
In a market that is saturated with high end compact cameras this is still a unique piece of kit and probably one of the most versatile systems you can purchase in its category and price range. Those are my thoughts. You may have a different opinion, which I totally respect, but either way I still love this little machine!