on October 20, 2012
I feel bad for this camera because it got overshadowed by the Sony RX100, which everyone thinks is so amazing because it has a sensor that's midway in size between a compact camera and an APS-C DSLR.
Leaving aside the RX100, the LX7 is the best compact camera I have ever owned with respect to image quality and useability and features.
Some of the wonderful attributes of this camera are:
1. It focuses as fast as an entry-level DSLR.
2. Built-in level.
3. "Step-zoom" allows you to select focal-length-equivalents of 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 90mm.
4. Manual focus gives you an electronic depth of field chart which changes as you change the aperture. This makes it great for either zone focusing or for finding the hyperfocal distance. There's also an "MF Resume" option which will return the lens to where you last manually focused.
5. Lens is really sharp, only minimal corner softness at F4, and very useable wide open, more so than the Sony RX100.
6. I also see nearly zero purple fringing with this camera--I'm not sure if its the amazing lens or Panasonic post-processing tricks, but it's nevertheless impressive.
7. Lens is so fast that this camera is actually a BETTER low-light camera than any entry-level DSLR if you are only going to be using that DSLR with the kit lens. The lens is also faster than the RX100, so you need to take that into account when you compare the two cameras. The lens is fast enough to give you a little bit of blurred background, something I've never seen before on a compact camera.
8. Widest angle is 24mm (equivalent), which is a premium feature that you don't get on basic DSLR kit lenses and you don't get on the Sony RX100.
9. For a sensor if its size it's probably best-of-class, with better DR and less noise than sensors from a few years ago.
The negatives of this camera are:
1. Not as small as a Sony RX100. It is not a pants pocket camera, but fits fine in a coat pocket. The LX7 is slightly more pocketable than an Olympus E-PM1 with the Panasonic 14mm pancake lens.
2. The LCD is nice, but not as nice as the one on the Sony RX100.
3. Has a lens cap you need to remove before using the camera. The camera comes with a little cord you can use to attach the lens cap to the camera so you don't lose it, but I tried it and hated having a lens cap dangling around. So far I've only lost one lens cap in the last ten years, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.
4. Even at base ISO, the sensor is a good distance behind top-quality larger sensors, like the one in the Nikon 3200, so if your photographic goal is to make really huge prints, I recommend a Nikon 3200 with a sharp lens like the Nikon 16-85mm DX VR lens. But you would probably not notice this sensor's shortcomings in anything smaller than a 13 x 19" print.
If you are going to buy an entry-level DSLR or micro-four-thirds or NEX camera, and are only going to use that camera with the kit lens, then you are probably better off buying an LX7 instead. This camera even has a flash shoe and can be used with a real flash, so there's nothing you can't do with this camera just as well or better that you can do with a DSLR+kit lens.
on September 25, 2013
The LX7 was an upgrade from my Leica D-Lux 4 (Lumix LX3). The LX7 is identical in function to the Leica D-Lux 6 in glass, sensor and overall function, has a nice built-in grip - the Leica does not, and there are only slight differences in menu user interface. The Leica will appeal to those who want to pay double or more for the name and little red dot, but there is no technical justification. Same camera. So the rest of this review is about the Lumix LX-7.
Lumix got this so exactly right, on a camera that has seen gentle evolutionary changes previously.
First of all, don't be bamboozled by pixel count. Although it is billed as 10MP, those are fat sensitive pixels on a large sensor area (1:1.7). They also evolved from a CCD to a richer, more sensitive CMOS sensor, as many manufacturers have done over the years. The picture quality is superb, even in very low light, and up to about ISO 1600. Shot at ISO 80-200, the resulting JPEGs are grainless up to 8x10 magnification, and will make a fine 16x20 uncropped. It seems folks are selling cameras with huge MP specs and teeny sensors these days; just so much marketing vaporware. This one makes no such nonsensical lie.
I can this a Leica-Sonic, because, make no mistake, Leica did profoundly influence the lens design. It's not that disingenuous to call it a Vario-Summilux; Summilux is Leica branding for their f1.4 lenses costing many thousands of dollars when made in Germany for the M-Series cameras, and this is a true f1.4 lens at 24mm equivalent. At the 90mm equivalent end of the range, it's still f2.3. Couple that with excellent anti-shake, and you have a discrete digicam for wideangle, normal and macro use which can shoot hand-held in near zero light at a half-second. It is not for telephoto-lovers, the 20x zoom cameras have more reach but nowhere near this image quality. But at the 24mm end, very little barrel distortion, sharp out to the corners, and you can focus in macro mode objects which nearly touch the lens!
Some unique features which no one else offers:
(1) The f1.4 lens. Are you kidding me? They are not. Go find it anywhere else, except on your fixed focal length prime lens for the DSLR. It not only allows extreme low light shooting, but even lets you create shallow depth-of field for close portraits, which no other digicams can. And if you want to do this in bright light, where the 1/4000 sec fastest shutter and ISO 80 would otherwise not allow you to use the f1.4 max aperture, it even has a built-in neutral density filter with a dedicated button, so you can still shoot wide open. Extraordinary lens. Okay, so maybe Ernst Leitz would turn over in the casket if he ever saw the Summilux name applied to a Japanese-manufactured lens on a pocket camera, but it's a fantastic lens.
(2) The variable aspect ratio switch - you can shoot 3:2 like traditional 35mm, 4:3 like an iPad, 16:9 if you know you are going to view on a widescreen monitor or TV, and - new for this version - even 1:1. All those crops come out of an oversized 12MP circular image sensor, so you can crop before you shoot, not after, and maintain far more image detail. At the flip of a switch just above the lens.
(3) The manual controls are extensive and well placed. You can certainly shoot in iA (intelligent auto) and be hard-pressed to screw up anything, or control everything. But for manual shooters, at least use P, so that you can override white balance, focus or aperture when needed. And the manual focus mode and metering mode controls are excellent. Any time you use A or M, or override the P setting with a well-placed multi-control dial, you see the resulting aperture/shutter speed pairings instantly.
(4) It has an aperture ring!! - While most digicams have only an f4-f8 aperture range, making manual control of aperture and shutter almost useless, this f1.4 lens has a manual aperture ring from f1.4 to f8 right on the lens barrel, so you can shoot in A mode like it was a traditional SLR. Even most modern DSLR lenses don't have one anymore. That is a priceless feature for aperture priority shooters.
(5) Exposure compensation. Any serious pro camera has a bias dial, the +/- exposure control that lets you bias the auto exposure up or down in 1-stop or partial stop increments. Go find it on an iPhone, nope. Go find it on most prosumer digicams; it is often buried in menus. But on the Lumix LX7, the multi-control ring lets you change it instantly, while the display shows you the plus/minus bias and and resulting aperture/shutter speed pairings, either on screen or in the viewfinder.
No camera's meter is smart enough to correctly expose every shot without exposure bias. I use this feature with nearly every picture I take, on every camera I use. I even use it on my Pantech Discover cell phone (sorry, Apple). But on the Lumix, it is utterly convenient and professional, an indispensable tool.
(6) The mode dial was stiffened up over earlier versions; it will no longer move by itself in the pocket or case. And when you change it, a spinning dial on the display easily shows you the set mode (iA, A, P, M, etc) in BIG letters, so you know the mode set without removing eyes from the screen or finder.
(7) Did I say "finder"? I am a 56-year old eyeglass wearer who grew up on pro Nikons with great optical viewfinders. While I loved my previous Leica-Sonic (the f2 lensed LX3 / D-Lux 4) for image quality and portability, I could not use it at arms length without the eyeglasses on and off like a yo-yo. So candid and action shots were nearly impossible, just like most arm's length digicams. So I never replaced my Nikon's normal lens or considered the Leica D-Lux 4 a true alternative. And after shooting, in bright light you couldn't see or edit what you shot, unless you hid inside someplace dark (same problem with DSLRs).
Enter the new Leica-Sonic (Lumix LX7) with the LVF2 viewfinder. The finder, made by Olympus but marketed for Leica (EVF) and Lumix (LVF), slides into the shoe, and transforms this little digicam into a near DSLR, in some ways better. It's bright, contrasty, shows you the accurate framing, focus and exposure and all settings - everything you can see on the 3" rear LCD. Or not. Flip back and forth between finder and screen with a button. Switch on and off the extra finder info with a button. Then review your just-shot picture in the finder as well. Not even my Nikons let me do this, so when you simply must verify exposure, focus or anything else outdoors, the EVF is transformative for photography. Yes, it does create some bulk, but as a tool, it is the single biggest advance in small cameras since we did away with film. Buying this accessory is essential, even if you have to carry it in a separate pocket.
(8) Framing. My Nikons and previous Leica-Sonic had an electronic grid you could overlay on the screen when you needed to line up composition, like the lines on a large-format camera's ground glass. It was too busy and distracting on a small screen. So this time around, Lumix replaced it with a live 'gyro', a horizon line and vertical line which move to help you keep the camera level while shooting, without getting in the way. As with all the other display features, it is easily turned off and on with a button.
(9) Frame Rate. I thought I had died and gone upstairs when I learned how to trick my Nikon D300 into shooting nine frames per second (fps) instead of the advertised six. It has allowed me to capture instants in time otherwise impossible. Anyone not trying out this feature is missing out on capturing something really spectacular; I've taught several students to capture sports action like pros by using high frame rate. Well, this Lumix LX7 shoots ELEVEN fps. Sorry Nikon, but the little mirror-less camera has you beat here. And with a class 10 SD card installed, it will keep up, even at full resolution. Wow.
Nitpick 1: I've read many reviews panning this camera because it does not have a retractable lens cover. Rather, it has a traditional cap which you manually remove and replace, just like on a real camera, and it attaches with a small string tether to the strap lug so you don't lose it while shooting. My response is "Bee-Eff-Dee". I have to uncap my Nikons to shoot them, and since their lenses interchange, the cap goes in my case or pocket while shooting. With the Lumix, at least you always know where the cap is. Let's face it; this is not a toy, it is a serious photographer's small camera (I will not call it a point-and-shoot, out of respect). So if you want a retractable lens cover, go get a toy camera. Else, deal with it.
Nitpick2: Panasonic markets this as having a 7.5x Intelligent Zoom. Please do not insult MY intelligence. This is a 3.8x OPTICAL zoom lens, a 24-90mm equivalent in 35mm film parlance. The fact that you can crop in from that by 'zooming' past the optical limits has little practical value. By now, most digicam buyers get that, so Panasonic is attempting to rebrand digital zoom as something more than digital in-camera crop. But it is not a 7.5x lens, and the product title should not feature than number. It cheapens an otherwise excellent product aimed at the prosumer market, not the K-Market.
Nitpick3: Ken Rockwell, who has authored many fine camera reviews, has routinely panned this Leica / Lumix camera series. In his words, "it's not a real Leica". Well, no kidding, Ken. It also does not cost ten thousands bucks, body alone, plus lenses at several thousand per. But for most ordinary humans wanting professional image quality and features without a mortgage, it is all the Leica we will ever need. And for me, I can ski with it at 50mph in my pocket, ride my bike with it in my saddle bag, and always have it handy. I don't know anyone who would treat a Leica M9 this way. Most of them sit locked behind glass display cabinets. Mine makes photos.
Bottom line: I still keep my Nikon's 50mm f1.4 lens for fine portraiture and product photography, and to keep at least one mid-range lens for the D300. But I recently sold my Nikon's ten-year-old massive 28-70mm f2.8 pro lens, for $900, once I bought the Lumix). Why? Because the LX7 obsoleted the Nikkor. The LX7 cost me far less in total with viewfinder, spare battery, cards, EVF, leather half-case and leather wrist strap than I sold the well-used Nikkor lens for. And because it is far more versatile and pocketable, it takes more and better pictures.
All I use the Nikon D300 now for is for ultrawide (the 16mm fisheye and 12-24mm lenses) and telephoto (the 70-210mm f2.8) shooting. For everything else, the LX7 with the EVF is now this professional photographer's primary camera.
Just don't call it a point-and-shoot. You will insult it.
Bob Reed / Alpine Images
on September 28, 2012
I have read all the reviews by all the "experts" comparing this camera to just about everything. I am not a professional. I'm just a guy who likes to take pictures of my family and the things I see on the occasional trip. Of course, it's better if the pictures look like they have been taken by a professional with a big professional camera. I have owned a Lumix DMC-LC5, which was nice and gave me a few of those, but had the limitations of an early generation digital camera, and a Lumix DMC FZ-20 which was a significant improvement and gave me even more of the professional quality pictures I love, but it still had limitations, especially in poorly lit situations like indoor shots. I'm getting ready to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip out of the country and I wanted a special camera to make it easy and convenient to take great pictures and I didn't want to lug my bulky FZ-20 around, either. I bought my DMC-LX7 because of the promise of much better low light shots so the first thing I did when I got it was take some pictures inside the house at night without a flash. I was amazed. I may never use a flash again! It is almost like this lens creates its own light. Almost as good as the human eye. Just for grins, I turned out the lights and popped on a flash pointed to the ceiling and fired off a few shots. The results were eye-popping. The whole room was flooded with light that was evenly dispersed and natural. Probably the best shot I have ever taken of the room. Outside at night I got some fabulous shots of lit up houses and door-fronts. The daylight pictures were equally impressive as well. The automatic and creative settings really produce exceptional results. I may never have to try to figure out the finer points of manipulating ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed again. Yes, the camera is smaller than I expected, but I don't see that as a negative. It fits easily in my hand and, yes, I can one-hand it and I'm not a big guy. It is heavy for its size, but I don't see that as a negative. It feels solid and serious, not like a toy. You do have to take the lens cover off to do anything and it is small, but the handy little lens cap strap hooks nicely to the same metal loop for the neck strap. You'd have to be a real klutz to lose it or to not figure out how to attach it. If you are looking for a great little camera that takes great low light (and bright light pictures as well) this is it. And Lumix said, "Let there be light!"
on August 30, 2012
This is a difficult review to write since I still own and love my LX3 and LX5 cameras. When this one was announced, I could not wait to try it. The F1.4 - F2.3 lens was the only draw for me, so that is what I focused on when I received the camera.
The good things are:
Great resolution for such a small sensor. The noise behavior is good up to about 400iso and manageable if you have to use 800 (better by about a stop, than the LX5 IMO). The speed of operation is great, locking focus quickly and shot to shot times are much better than nearly any other P&S out there. The screen is lovely, and you can reasonably see it in bright sun (at least enough to compose a shot). It has a distinctly better fit in my hand than the LX3/5, feeling more like you can keep hold of it. The aperture ring on the lens is great, nicely clicking into position and felling like the detents are of a quality that high end DSLR's would use/employ.
The bad thing is:
The lens. Yes, it is a Leica branded lens, and yes it is a faster aperture. However, that F1.4 - 2.3 are deceptive since to get the legendary sharpness from either end of this lens, you have to stop down at least one full stop. Not as sharp wide open as the LX5 I am afraid. Next, the thing seems to rear focus on all Macro shots where distance to subject is sub 6". I tried about 20 or 30 shots to have this work as this one feature is what Panny have done so well in the LX series so far. Every shot in that range, rear focuses. If you imagine a shot of a ring, where you are 2" from the ring to lens, then focus on the stone in the front area of the ring, it would consistently hit about half way through that circle of the ring before getting sharp.
I loved the camera and really wanted to keep it. Alas, I cannot do so when I know that is one thing that would limit my shooting with it, and the softer images wide open would end up frustrating me. I have returned it.
on December 26, 2012
I am a novice camera user and am still trying to wrap my head around the technical aspects of photography. That being said, I'll admit that I still enjoy taking pictures, especially of my family. So I did a TON of research into the perfect camera (by my standards) and found that the LX7 fit these criteria:
*size: not as cumbersome as my husbands T2i which I've come to refer to as the "3rd child". I didn't need a pocket-able camera since I don't usually put cameras or phones in my pocket.
*low-light use: like most parents, we are always taking pictures in various scenarios; the holidays and birthday parties don't usually offer optimal lighting...so after reading many many many reviews, I came to see that the LX7 is great at low-light shots.
*macro: I take pictures for ebay and etsy and while I don't need my shots to look like I paid to have them taken, I do like a nice, clear, picture. This has been next to impossible (especially with jewelry) with my husband's t2i since the only lens he has is huge and I can't zoom into the detail I want. I have resorted to using my old Sony point-and-shoot for close-up shots, but I have to add A LOT of supplemental lighting, of which the quality isn't that great.
With those criteria, I found the LX7 to fit the bill, but at the price point of almost 500, it was too much to spend on something I didn't "need", but when the price dropped around Cyber Monday, I promptly informed my husband and he generously purchased it as a Christmas gift for me. That being said, I have only possessed this camera for a little over 24 hours, so my review is premature, but I will update when/if I see necessary. Here's how it met my criteria:
*size: PERFECT! it's small enough to throw in a bag or purse but large enough to stabilize. On a side note, I feel I need to discuss the whole "strap" situation that many feel is a major concern. Yes, the strap on the LX7 is awkward. It's really a matter of personal preference. I ordered a wrist strap for around 8 bucks. I probably won't use the neck (shoulder) strap that it comes with since the camera isn't quite big/heavy enough to warrant a neck strap. Again, I will update this review if my opinion changes once I actually use the wrist strap but so far I haven't found much use for the neck strap.
*low-light use: I used the camera all day on Christmas and played around with it today (the day after) and rarely used the flash. The camera takes great pictures in low-light situations. I took lots and lots of shots of my Christmas tree without any supplemental lighting and they are all beautiful. Just like any point-and-shoot, the flash tends to be very harsh and doesn't "fill" like it should, but I think that fact that you rarely need to flash makes up for the actual flash deficiencies, if that makes any sense.
*macro: now this is where Cupid struck. I love love love the macro. It's divine! I've been playing around with the settings and tweaked it so that it takes perfect shots of the tiniest little toys. I am very impressed with how well, even in the auto mode, it takes pictures and gets the fine details. All without the harshness of the flash.
Some other notes are that I did put the pictures on my desktop (an iMac) and they look superb. Not 100% of the gift-opening pictures came out great, but there was A LOT of movement in a relatively low-lit area. I am very happy with how easy this camera is to use.
And one more note on the lens cap since I feel I need to put my two-cents in. Really, people?? really????? It's not a big deal. It took me 1 nano-second to figure out how to very very quickly remove the lens cap with the flick of a finger. I would rather not purchase an after-market supplementation that requires me to dismantle my camera to apply. Those "auto" lens caps don't seem very safe to me. I would worry about dust getting in. Also, since it seems like most LX7 users also use a dSLR, I would think that the tiny lens cap (and supplied strap) wouldn't be a big deal. But, that's just my opinion!
I know my review isn't full of technical jargon and that's because I'm not familiar with all of that. I think that if you're looking for an excellent point-and-shoot, this is the camera for you. I think that if you're looking for a camera to carry around instead of a clunky dSLR, this is the camera for you. It's the "have your cake and eat it too" camera :)