Wow, this was a tough upgrade decision. Sony's RX100 is superb competition, and I was certain *IT* would be the camera that pulled me out of the Panasonic camp (I also own an old Panasonic DMC-FX50 "bridge camera" in addition to an LX5, which replaced my LX3 -- plus my wife kept a Pana FX35 in her purse before she switched to Sony's slim TX9.
Despite keeping these few cameras around (really just the 3: the FX50, the TX9 and now the LX7), I'm just your Joe Average photographer, shooting mainly the kids, family/friend gatherings, special events, and some home construction-type projects, and other hobby interests.
And what I've ever really wanted out of the LX series is a compact, low light-capable camera with a respectable set of manual controls. Exactly what the SONY RX100 is with its huge sensor, and of the two, it is unquestionably the better performer for indoor shooting situations of fast moving kids, compared to the LX3 and LX5.
If that were my only criteria, I'd have never ordered the LX7, and might be typing up my thoughts on the RX100 instead. But maybe my four years of familiarity with the LX3/5 got the better of me. Maybe I'm just a sheep with a Panasonic logo branded on my flank. But there were a couple of sore points with the Sony that just plain made me unsatisfied. Rather than trash the RX100 (not my intention), here's my list:
- There's no escaping the benefit of the wide 24mm lens on the LX series. Not to mention the handy aspect ratio mode switching right on the bezel. And I use the 1:1 aspect ratio more than I care to admit.
- The Panasonic's hot shoe is a hot commodity when I need it. I have a Metz 36-AF4O (since replaced by the Metz 36 AF-5, I believe) which is about as big as the camera itself, but provides more than adequate light with bounce capabilities.
- Two of my gripes with the LX3 and LX5 were the difficulty of adjusting manual settings via push-button & thumb dial inputs. The LX7's aperture ring and dedicated manual focus lever have addressed this, with varying degrees of satisfaction.
- I get to keep my LX5 spare battery, which isn't such a huge deal, but just know that its shelf life is spectacular. Although my predicted number of shots between charges has decreased, per the manual. Nothing drastic; still great battery life.
- Most importantly, the Panasonic LX7 has a certain ease and quickness about it -- probably due in part to my use of its predecessors -- and combined with the newly added manual controls, it feels to me the design is finally at a point where I can set up various shooting solutions with a minimum of fuss and button pressing, nearly (but not quite) like my SLR days many years ago. The "user experience" of the Sony, by comparison, felt a little too menu driven and sticky.
Where did Panasonic fall short with this new model?
- For one, the image quality really hasn't changed. My thoughts are that the LX3 was excellent, but the LX5 tended to focus a little soft -- although nothing that stood out horribly amiss; maybe within the normal manufacturing variations? I don't want to speculate on sensor sizes or type playing a role, but I can attest Sony's RX100 shoots a "cleaner" or "crisper" portrait-style photo -- although that difference disappears once the image is downsized for printing/sharing.
- There's still no remote. Or cable release. Or Bulb mode. Can't tell you how much I enjoy those features on other cameras. For the LX5, I have a cable release adapter that slides into the hot shoe and extends an arm over the shutter release for a cable release to activate, but the hot shoe has been realigned on the LX7 so it no longer works.
- I continue to have trouble reading the silver-on-silver symbols etched onto the 4-way keys.
- If you're one to complain about the lens cap (I'm not, but I know a lot of LX users HATE the thing)... well, it's still here, and it's smaller than before, making it a little more difficult to clip on/clip off.
- I once committed to never buying a camera without a tiltable display, but that's just not an option. All things considered, the LX7 display is not as bright at the RX100, but is very visible in all but direct daylight, and viewable from off angles without the colors inverting.
What did Panasonic get right with the LX7 update?
- The redesigned lens is noteworthy. It's a definite improvement over the LX5 for indoor shooting, and that extends through the entire zoom range (still only 90mm, which was an improvement over the LX3). I find that I take the vast majority of my photos on the wide end of this lens, but in low light settings, I've been forced to if I'm trying to avoid using the flash. With the lens redesign, I've got a little more flexibility in my zoom before resorting to higher ISOs.
- IC? Firmware? Who knows! The camera is snappier than its predecessor, in all aspects: start up, menu navigation, auto focus delay, and shot to shot. It gets shots off near instantaneously. And the kicker is a burst mode!
- I can't say I was disappointed by the 720p video of the LX5, but full HD video is a treat -- especially with memory prices as cheap as they are compared to two years ago.
- Finally, a dedicated white balance button on the 4-way controller! (Panasonic eliminated the "Focus" key featured on the LX5, and also added burst mode selection to the shutter self timer key.)
- I'm very excited about the inclusion of a time lapse feature. This was overdue.
- The clickable, dedicated aperture ring, especially, and the manual focus lever, sort of (light applause -- needs something more "ring like")
- The mode wheel is substantially firmer, preventing inadvertent turns while in the pocket.
Some random thoughts on the Sony RX100: It feels a little "rough" at startup (i.e. not-so-smooth lens extension, kind of rough feel & sound), and starts up about a second slower than the Panasonic, but not having to remove a lens cap negates that. Zoom time from full wide to full tele is about one second snappier on the Sony. I felt that the Sony's auto white balance "got it right" more often than the LX, but the custom white balance is at minimum one level deep into the menu (if set to the Fn key). Shutdown immediately after snapping a pic is an agonizingly slow 5-6 seconds for full lens retraction; 3-4 seconds if the camera is already at idle. And not so much a dig at Sony as a kudos to Panasonic, but with the 28mm constraint on the wide end, switching from 4:3 to 16:9 simply crops the top and bottom of the frame, whereas on all the LX cameras with their unique sensor usage, I actually gain extra pixels on the sensor to help compose the shot I want.
Panasonic's history of product support HAS to be a consideration. They released mid-cycle firmware updates for both the LX3 and the LX5, and with the unexpected LX3 update in particular, added new features -- not just bug fixes. (Wish I could say the same about the FX50, but that's a story for another day...)
I wouldn't be so bold as to recommend the LX7 over the RX100, but only want to give a little insight via some of the features I hold in high regard. They both definitely have their strong suits. If you're at all familiar with the previous LX cameras, you have a solid basis for understanding the LX7 improvements, as well as its shortcomings. That certainly didn't stop me from happily purchasing the RX100 before giving the LX7 a chance to hit the streets, but by doing so I immediately proved to myself that there is still no "perfect camera," and with the compromises that I had to accept, my preferences fell mainly back to the LX line.
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 18, 2012
My primary requirement for a camera is that it be compact, but still take great pictures under the conditions I run into often. I hike and climb a lot and do not want the bulk of a DSLR hanging in front of me, and the camera must be accessible so I don't delay the group while digging my camera out of the pack. So I gravitate toward the compact camera that gives me as much of the DLSR feature set as possible.
I chose the LX7 primarily because it has a very fast lens. For me that means handheld shots under a thick forest canopy are not blurred because of slow shutter speeds. My previous camera was the DMC-LX5, the predecessor to this model and it was great. I'm replacing it because I made the mistake of taking movies in a sandstorm during a hike down Buckskin gulch in Utah. Ever since that the camera has been complaining when sand grains stick in the lens mechanism and get inside the camera on the sensor. So don't do that!
When the LX7 arrived I downloaded the PDF manual (much easier to read than the small one in the box) and went through the new features to familiarize myself with how to use them. I kept being delighted with the improvements over the LX5 that make this the best camera I've ever owned for hiking/climbing shots. In brief, they are:
1) Fast lens - good for hand held shots in dim lighting situations (forests, twilight, ...). You don't hold up your companions setting up a tripod shot.
2) Wide angle - no need for a panorama when the wide angle lens can get it all
3) Compact - light and small enough to hand around your neck all day without being uncomfortable
4) Raw - Most of the time I take jpeg simply to document the hike. But when dramatic lighting or scenes call for it I can kick in the Raw for a killer result.
5) Bracketing - many outdoor shots with snow or sun/shadow scenes have huge contrast. Exposure bracketed shots combined in post solve this.
6) New! Auto HDR - LX7 will do the bracketing and merging in camera. Haven't tested enough to see if it beats (4) for quality though.
7) New! Auto Pano - I take a lot of panorama shots from viewpoints, and it's time consuming to stitch them in post. The LX7 will do them in camera.
8) New! 3D - I know, 3D is overrated, but for that shot hanging over the cliff nothing else works as well. LX7 has a 3D photo mode.
9) New! Time Lapse - I don't do time lapse much because I couldn't, but I hope to capture progressive alpenglow from camp, and a time lapse of 3 shots 1-minute apart also works as a long self-timer. I've nearly fallen scrambling on steep summit rocks to get in the picture withing 10 seconds.
10) White body - I bushwhack a lot and twice my camera has "sneaked" out of my case when I forgot to close the zipper. White cameras are easier to find!
on November 28, 2012
The Panasonic DMC-LX7: Its Own Class of Camera
The notion of compact and "pocketable" form factor cameras is a matter of perspective. Just like an "affordable" camera has a lot to do with what you personally feel is an appropriate price bracket, if a camera is pocketable or not depends on how big your pockets are. The Lumix LX7 retails for about $500, is one of the flagship fixed lens cameras from Panasonic, yet has already been discounted in various spots to forty percent less than retail. At $300 street price, it is less dollars than some small-sensor long zoom cameras, yet is still about double the price of some very competent point and shoot cameras. If you are interested in optional (but pricey) features, the hot shoe of the LX-7 lets you instantly add the Panasonic DMW-LVF2 1,440,000-dot equivalent electronic viewfinder (about $200) or your choice of a few external flash units as well.
The LX-7 is the latest incarnation of the LX-3 / LX-5 series of more or less compact cameras that have featured a bit larger sensors and brighter lenses than the run of the mill compact cameras, along with the ability to save images in RAW format. Compared to its well-received predecessor, the LX-5 has a sharper 3-inch LCD with 920,000 dots, a faster F1.4-2.3, 3.8X lens, faster shooting performance, and comparatively spectacular video capability. It records at up to Full HD video at 1080/60p and additionally offers high speed 720p video recording at 120 frames/second. Compared to the LX-5 this is a substantial upgrade, as far as I'm concerned, in most all key areas. Its CIPA standard battery life is reduced to 330 images from 400 in the LX-5, likely due to its improved resolution LCD. It is a bit heavy (0.66 lb / 10.51 oz.) and bulky (4.37 x 2.68 x 1.81 in.) compared to the shirt pocket type cameras, but similar to the LX5. It does fits the platform of pocket camera, but a coat-pocket camera rather than a shirt or pants pocket camera.
LX7 Basic Specifications
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Lens: 3.80x zoom (24-90mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD 920k
LCD Size: 3.0 inch
Max Aperture: 1.4
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 in. (111 x 67 x 46 mm)
Weight: 10.5 oz (297 g) incl. battery
100% crop image quality at ISO 1600 betters the upscale long zoom cameras, such as the generally impressive DMC-FZ200. Its faster lens and slightly larger sensor (1/1.7 inch) combine to make this came a low-light superstar, bettering the similar sensor size equipped Canon S100 and S110.
Let's say you are considering moving up to the LX7 from a compact long zoom travel camera, such my current favorite in that class, the Lumix ZS-15 or the generally excellent Canon SX260. Now, you net the sharper LCD, a bigger sensor, and the LX7 lens is far, far faster than the ZS-15's F3.3 - F5.9 array. You'll also appreciate the included external charger, the hot shoe of the LX-7, and the obvious superior low-light capabilities. By low light, I mean the indoors version of low-light, without using the flash. If you accustomed to post-processing, the RAW images of the LX7 will be another appreciated advantage.
On the flipside, the LX-7 is around twice the price, you might miss the 16x optical zoom, and you'll notice right away that the LX-7 is noticeably bigger and heavier by comparison. You'll also notice right away that there is no integral lens cover on the LX7 and the lens cap is removed manually (an aftermarket solution is readily available). If your focus (pun int.) is primarily on convenience and economy, the ZS-15 is most assuredly easier to have with you all the time, easier to quickly just throw into a pocket and go.
The reasons there is so little consensus in the preferred camera is that we all have divergent notions of what a camera is supposed to do. Naturally, image quality defines a desirable camera, but there is the snapshot level of quality image and then the "I want to make posters" level. Satisfying snapshots are the most common output of a camera to no one's great surprise. Yet, if your camera has wondrous image quality, but turtle-slow shooting performance, it is easy to forego image softness only discernible if you hold an 8 x 10 a few inches from your nose in favor of a faster camera that is less hassle to use.
Video capabilities get better and better in "still cameras," one of those things not important to you . . . unless of course it is. This camera delivers strongly in the video department. The same goes with time lapse, high-speed video, creative effects, and so forth. The technically "best" image-capturing unit may not at all be the best choice for you if the image stabilization is poor, you can't see the LCD, the batteries are perpetually dead, and some of the specialty features you really want don't exist. In all of these areas, the LX-7 is either very good to class-leading.
The LX-7 aspect ratio selector means you can shoot 3:2 images at 9.5 Megapixels. That completely fills the 3:2 aspect ratio screen and is where I've found myself doing most of my shooting. The image stabilization is excellent, the Panasonic "iA" (intelligent auto mode) yields impressive results if you aren't inclined to experiment with the program or scene modes.
This camera reads like a compilation of everything most people claim they want improved from their economy, compact, point and shoot. It has a better LCD, a bigger sensor, first-rate video capabilities, a hot shoe, JPEG, JPEG+RAW, and RAW capability, and includes the fastest lens in this category of camera today: F1.4-2.3. It includes an external charger as opposed to "USB only" charging, its 330 CIPA battery life is better than most compacts, and it has enough manual controls and scene modes to keep people experimenting for a very, very long time. This unit captures truly excellent video with a wondrous high speed video mode as well, 720p @ 120 fps.
Time lapse, high speed video, an external charger, and a built-in neutral density filter might seem old hat by now, but it actually is ***anything but***. The next step up the food chain, the larger sensored $650 Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 lacks not just one or two of these features: it lacks all of them. Yet, the RX100 is lighter in weight, if not on the wallet, something than cannot be said for some others in the category. The RX100 actually offers very little over this camera, its diminutive size and higher resolution are the two areas that cannot be denied. What closes the gap is the extremely fast lens of the LX-7.
It is hard to fault this camera. In many ways, this is a one-stop compact personal imaging center for both still images and video. The only video consideration is not the video quality, but the inability to plug in an external mic. The only thing you might miss as a still camera is the lack of a long optical zoom if you feel that cramps your personal creative juices. The overall speedy focus and shooting performance is immensely satisfying; as you won't find yourself waiting for this camera to respond. If there is such thing as a bullseye in the price / performance ratio, this camera seems to nail it.
In somewhat of rare and pleasant happenstance, this camera does everything it promises to do. Not everything always works as described, but the Panasonic DMC-LX7 actually does. Those looking to upgrade from the LX5 won't have to go past the faster lens, sharper LCD, and vastly improved video to find the LX7 an appealing successor. This is simply an all-around excellent piece of equipment.
It scores top-of-chart in image quality and video quality in its class. Its shooting performance makes many cameras seem turtle-slow shot-to-shot. Finally, can be considered a screamingly strong value as well. Nothing competes with it at a $300 street price that I'm aware of and I mean ***nothing***. For many, many folks this is the only camera you'll need or want . . . and it leaves scant little lacking in a non-system reasonably compact package beyond what comes in the box.
I did add Progo DMW-BCJ13e Power Pack (Two Li-Ion Rechargeable Batteries and Pocket Travel AC/DC Wall Charger with Car Adapter & US to European plug) for Panasonic DMW-BCJ13, DMW-BCJ13E, DMW-BCJ13PP. Works with Lumix DMC-LX5, DMC-LX7 Digital Camera. Fully Compati... that is really quite a bargain in battery-land, and a Lowepro Rezo 50 Camera Bag. The Lowepro Rezo 50 works particularly well if you go with a standard lanyard on the side of the camera rather than the dual strap supplied array. My final addition was the Auto Lens Cap for PANASONIC LUMIX DMC LX7 LX-7, LEICA D-LUX 6 + MagicFiber Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloth.
The Progo batteries are excellent, no loss of functionality vs. OEM batteries, slightly better life, and a fraction of the rip-off priced Panasonic branded batteries. With the Auto lens cap, everything goes neatly into the Rezo 50 bag including the two extra batteries. This is where it reaches, but does not exceed, my own personal limit of an easily portable camera array.
Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman.
All Rights Reserved.
If you are on a budget, and want a better than standard compact camera that is a bit smaller, consider: Canon PowerShot S100 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 5x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black) for $249. Poor video compared to the LX7, a slower lens, weak low-light ability, but significantly smaller in size.
For longer zoom, economical compacts the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS15 12.1 MP High Sensitivity MOS Digital Camera with 16x Optical Zoom (Black) is a screaming deal at $149 and the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Image Stabilized Zoom 25mm Wide-Angle Lens and 1080p Full-HD Video (Black) is now (finally) at a competitive $200 price point.
If you want a RAW capable long zoom fixed lens camera, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom - Black is a top choice, but still at a salty $500 price point, and it is too bulky to be considered compact by most.
For image quality, though, this LX-7 betters them all, and in low light or for video, it makes them all looks embarrassingly weak.
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 August 26, 2012
Updated 2/22/13 to revise comments on image quality
Took this camera out on a trail yesterday with me. Overall, I think it's a solid performer and better than its predecessor for the most part.
The camera feels a little cheaper than than the LX5. It's not flimsy, but it seems like the body is composed of plastic vs. metal on the LX5. It doesn't feel as solid as the S100, but it doesn't feel flimsy though. The button layout on the back of the camera is almost exactly the same as the LX5. Including the silver buttons whose labeling is hard to see. But that is just a minor annoyance overall.
The screen is a definite improvement over its predecessors, sharp and crisp and much more usable in direct sunlight, and it also seems larger. Composing a shot with this camera is a much more pleasant experience overall than the LX5.
The aperture ring on the front of the camera has a nice feel to it when adjusting the aperture. However, I would have rather seen Panasonic put in a customizable ring like on the Canon S100 rather than just for adjusting the aperture. But there was nothing of the sort on its predecessor so it still is nice to have the aperture ring there.
The firmware on the camera is a lot faster than its predecessor. The write times have improved (I am using a Class 10 SanDisk card) but you still want to get a decent memory card for this camera so you won't get slowed down by the write times. The camera has a fairly decent menu system in order to access different features. The Panorama mode works very well and dare I say, even better than Sony's implementation. However, unlike Sony who puts it on the mode dial on a lot of its cameras, you have to go into the scene mode first and then select the option from there.
Image quality is really top-shelf for a compact camera. This has a lot to do with the sharpness and color performance of the lens. Depending on how you view things, there is a chance you might actually like the photos from the LX7 better than the RX100 due to its excellent color performance. Colors are vibrant and saturated but not to the point where they look cartoonish and overdone. Color accuracy is also excellent. It is not the high ISO king but processing RAW will help you get usable files as high as ISO1600. The JPEG files are an improvement over the LX5 and the RAW files are simply stunning and compare quite nicely (at low ISOs) to APS-C cameras. Very pleased with the images from this camera.
Another strong suit for this camera is autofocus performance. It is the fastest enthusiast compact I have ever shot with in that regard no matter what the lighting conditions are. However, like its predecessors, the lens zooms VERY slowly. It's a shame that Panasonic did not do anything to speed that up in this model.
I have not messed with the movie mode but from what I see it does a pretty good job. Honestly, I don't do much movie recording so I don't really have much to say on the performance.
I think the LX7 is a great little camera. Image quality is excellent, especially considering the sensor size. The AF performance is also very quick. There are some operational annoyances, but overall, this camera is a good choice and has been very reasonably priced as of late.
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 November 16, 2013
I looked around for days and weeks to find my next perfect camera... After I quit pro photography, I wanted to have something that I can satisfy my urges to take good photos from time to time... The things I look for a camera usually clear sharp images, hot shoe to be able to use my remote trigger if I need to use strobes sometimes... and fast lens. I found all that in LX7, bar-none the best camera around for the price vs. features and image/built quality! It's not a plastic toy, that's for sure.
Let me tell you something... if a camera gets its biggest complain from it's "hanging" lens cap, that should say a lot about the overall quality of it.
Here are the complains about this camera that I read here and other places...
1-Lens cap... thank God for the Auto Lens Cover (I got one too), but I would NOT have any complains using the cap came with it... just like on DSLR cameras.
2-Sensor size... Really? With F1.4 lens, I would give a rat's rear end for the sensor size... It gives perfect results and that counts for me the most.
3-Slow zoom in/out... Ok, go somewhere else then. It sure is slow and I am not making an Oscar winning movie with it... so I don't really care. Again, fast... I mean FAST focusing just makes up that "slow" zooming!!!
4-No viewfinder! Sold separately... I confess, I tried to get closer to this camera a few times, thinking there is one... and little weird to take photos looking at the LCD screen, but not a big deal!
5-Only 24-90mm zoom! Again... really? some of the compact cameras sold more than $1K have prime lenses, either 35mm, 50mm... etc. which, none of them as fast as F1.4.
There are more complains, but they are there practically just to complain about something, nothing else.
So, in short... If you are/were a pro photographer... or not, and want a camera that will get you perfect photos, with or without total manual settings... this is your machine. Check out my sample pictures. I finally uploaded some that this camera deserves.
PS: Video quality is superb... I and really LOVE the fast recording option which shows slow motion actions... pretty cool :)
on December 5, 2012
I have been a strictly DSLR user for years. But recently I found that I had a need for a compact camera, when taking the DSLR wasn't appropriate. I needed something I could fit in a pocket and it had to take RAW images. From there I was spec comparing, and it really came down to price. With the 299 price tag during Cyber Monday, this was the winner.
This is the first Panasonic camera I have ever owned (I do have a panasonic video recorder with some similar menu titles) so it took me a while to get used to the layout. I'm not a big fan of jumping into on screen menus to makes changes, as I feel it's much slower than using the mini LCD on top of most DSLRs. So I'm very glad for the aperture ring (I do 95% of my shooting in aperture priority). I'm also very glad for the wheel that allows me to change my exposure compensation. However, the Quick Menu could use some work, as I don't find it quick enough.
I also like the button layout choices. My left hand is basically free to make aperture and focus changes, while my right hand does the rest. The text on the buttons is hard to read, but the positions feel natural as I was able to quickly memorize them. I think it's GREAT that the movie recording button is recessed, making it almost impossible to accidentally press.
The size and weight f the camera is also respectable. I can easily fit it in a jacket pocket, and depending on the pants I am wearing, a pants pocket. The camera feels dense and sturdy overall, expect for some of the top buttons which I'm afraid could be bumped off. Of note, I have very large hands, and this camera feels very comfortable in them. There is enough space between each button that allows me to press them without hitting others.
Now that the physical aspects of the camera are out of the way, how does it perform? Starting with the autofocus, which is lighting fast. I recommend setting the autofocus box size as small as possible. This helps ensure that the point you want focused is in focus. The focus tracking feature is pretty handy, especially for kids and pets.
The inboard flash isn't any good, just like all built in flashes I have ever used. But the inclusion of a hotshot is fantastic. I can throw on one of my manual flashes that allows me to bounce the flash around and also use my wireless triggers. I did notice that there are very few panasonic compatible TTL flashes, which is a concern if you are not comfortable setting flash strength manually.
Quality of photos is outstanding for a compact. I shot in a number of different lighting situations, and was very impressed at the results. Sure my DSLR takes higher quality photos, especially in tricky light, but I would expect nothing else. I did notice a slight bit of chromatic aberration in some high contrast areas, and the auto white balance is a bit towards cool/green, but those thinks are easily fixed in post when using RAW. and surprisingly, when the sun is in the frame, I like the burst created by this a bit better than from the DSLR.
I find the image stabilization to work very well. I can keep the ISO low but continue to get decent photos. Nothing compares to using a tripod, but at least this gives me usable images in low light.
One thing that is a big annoying is the write speed of images. Auto focus is fast, menus are fast, shutter lag is short, frames per second is high, and the LCD is very responsive. But writing images to the card is annoyingly slow (I'm using a fast card). The main downside here is that you cannot view images while the buffer is clearing, and you cannot fully power off until the buffer is clear.
Some minor additions to the review:
* I would prefer to not have a neck strap, and just a wrist strap. A neck strap just isn't needed for a compact.
* You need to remove the battery to charge it. It seems to be able to keep the time, I just hope there isn't some hard to replace mini battery that will die in a few years. It would be great if it could charge via the USB port.
* The ND filter is a nice touch. Combine that with a physical ND filter and you could get some very long exposures during the day.
* The included software (as least for the Mac) is crap. Don't bother with it.
* There is an included strap to connect the lens cap to the camera. I almost threw it away because it was packed strangely.
* I cannot understand why the main menu has so many pages per section. It takes forever to navigate. Hopefully as I get my main setting settled, this wont be too much of an issue.
* The histogram is lacking. You can only turn it on globally (can't choose to just have it show during playback) and there is no RGB histogram. The latter is a major disappointment.
* The aperture only goes down to f/8, even in manual mode. Under most circumstances, this isn't a big deal, although the fastest shutter speed is only 1/4000, so bright sunlight could be trouble. Luckily the 3 stop ND filter helps mitigate the problem.
Overall I find this a fine compliment to my DSLR, but I personally wouldn't use it as my only camera.
on June 11, 2014
I would like to give my opinion about the Lumix LX7 camera (referred wrongly by many as a point and shoot camera). I am an experienced amateur photographer, have owned many different cameras like Leicas, Hasselblad and Nikons from the film age. Presently I own a Pentax K30 with a wide assortment of lenses which I think is a fantastic camera, so I guess I know what I am talking about.
When you talk about digital cameras, there is a school of thought that puts a lot of emphasis on the pixel count, noise at the pixel level and comparisons based on many technical aspects with very little consideration about the actual results and their intended use. Let me clarify. I shoot my pictures for my pleasure and like to view and show them in a screen, with the occasional print of the ones a Ilke best of up to 20 inches in the largest dimension. And I guess that I am among a very large group of photographers in this respect. So, the intended use is of primary importance in my analysis.
My daughter is a professional photographer, so she uses full frame Nikons and Canons and her pictures have a different intended use, large prints among them. So, her analysis would be different from mine.
So, what do I look in a camera, given my needs? Let me make a list of requirements.
1. High quality
2. Good ergonomics
3. Wide angle
4. Low weight for casual photography and travel
5. Fast lens
6. Good zoom range
7. Sharp results
8. RAW capability
9. Use of optic filters, like an UV, Neutral or CPL
10. Good battery life
11. Reasonable price
12. Moderate to low noise at high ISO settings
13. Eye level viewfinder
14. Fast focusing
15. Good screen for composing and viewing
16. Good movie capabilities
Obviously, most of these requirements are met by a DSRL, like my Pentax K30, except perhaps and arguably by the movie capability which in this case is just adequate and the requirement of low weight. Any DSRL, including the Pentax are heavy and more so after a day of carrying it, along with an assortment of lenses. But I needed a camera that, while satisfying all my requirements was both reasonable in size and weight and that not a pain in the neck (literally) to carry around and allowed me to be fairly inconspicuous while shooting.
After reviewing the available options, and I considered all the obvious ones, like the Sony RX100, the Canon S models and the high end Nikon compacts, it was obvious to me that the best alternative by far was the Panasonic LX7 for several reasons, in spite of being a model introduced 2 years ago.
Let me start with the end result and then I will cover the details and the reasons I opted for this camera. It is a fantastic camera of high quality build that gives excellent results and it’s a joy to use.
Now let me get into specifics. I will tackle my list of requirement individually, but my review will necessarily be limited to what I consider the relevant points.
1. High quality
The construction of this camera is flawless with a metal body. You can fell the quality as you hold it in your hands. Almost every review I have read about this camera has a negative opinion of the battery/SD card open latch, calling it flimsy and detracting from the general high quality construction. In my opinion this is a moot point as my experience with several point & shoot Panasonic cameras I have owned is that it works perfectly, and I believe that the reason Panasonic continues to use it is that it works and it is durable. This camera is built to last and at the same time is a thing of beauty that you are proud to own.
2. Good ergonomics
The camera feels just right in your hands, has an excellent grip to your right side that gives a good one handed hold on it. All the controls are in the right places, at least in my opinion, are easy to operate and secure in holding their position. You will not move a control inadvertently, that’s for sure. One of the criticisms that are offered is that the lens cap has to be removed each time you turn on the camera. I personally, coming from the film era cameras find this totally natural and it doesn’t bother me at all. Anyhow, I have purchased an accessory lens cap, three leafed that opens automatically when you turn on the camera and that works beautifully. I alternate between these two lens covers, depending where I carry the camera. This one is an inexpensive gadget that can be bought at Amazon or eBay and it’s very easy to install or remove.
One word of caution: remember always to attach the small cord provided to secure the original lens cap to the camera body so to not loose it inadvertently.
I particularly liked the aperture control ring and the aspect ratio selection switch, both operating directly through the lens mount. Very convenient.
3. Wide angle
The lens has fantastic wide angle capabilities. The equivalent 35mm maximum is 24mm, but a would like to give a word of caution. These measures are used always in reference to an aspect ratio that is all right if you just crop the picture to give the aspect ratio you want. No so in the case of the LX7. The sensor has more pixels than the ones you get in the actual picture, and so, if you use the 3:2 ratio you get the 24mm coverage. But if you go to the 16:9 ratio, the LX7 takes away a portion of the upper and lower parts of the picture but adds to the left and right sides, so that what you get in this case is a coverage of almost 21mm. The same happens, in the opposite direction with the other aspect ratios available, 4:3 and 1:1. To my knowledge this is not provided by any other camera I know of.
4. Low weight for casual photography and travel
This camera is not tiny by any means, but neither it is unreasonable large and its weight is adequate to carry it all day long with no undue strain. I normally carry it in a case that is attached to my belt (I use the leather model that provides sturdy protection and it’s nice to look at) and always have it with me. Occasionally I can carry the camera on the pocket of my jacket. In this case I use the alternate lens cover that I mentioned earlier.
5. Fast lens
In this respect, the LX7 shines. It has the most luminous lens in the compact camera market, as far as I know. It has a maximum aperture of 1.4 at maximum aperture and 2.3 at its longest telephoto setting. All other cameras considered may have a good maximum aperture (though none comes near the 1.4) but the telephoto end is way over the 2.3 that the LX7 achieves. Just look at the specs of the LX7 competitors and you get the idea.
6. Good zoom range
The zoom range of the LX7 covers most of my shooting needs. I tend to use the wide angle settings more often than the telephoto, and there are some occasions where I need more than an 90mm equivalent range. For these cases (not very numerous for me) I am considering buying a long telephoto compact camera to carry around as a supplement, instead of my DSRL with a telephoto lens. The Panasonic range has some very good possibilities, with very sharp Leica lenses that will fit my bill. Consider this as having a very long zoom lens for your DSRL, and compare the size and weight. You get my point. If you consider cost and weight this is a no brainer.I believe this will be the way to go for me. You can carry the LX7 for most of your shooting and use the other compact camera for long range shooting at an acceptable level of quality when you need it.
7. Sharp results
The lens and sensor combination of the LX7 gives amazing results, even when shooting at full aperture. In all honesty, I can’t tell the difference between pictures taken with the LX7 and the Pentax. Probably I would see a difference in large prints but I don’t have the need for these. I believe this Leica Summilux zoom lens is among the sharpest lenses I have ever used.
8. RAW capability
The LX7 can shoot in both RAW and JPEG formats or both simultaneously. I shoot all my pictures in RAW and am able to extract full detail. Incidentally, the LX7 produces RAW files with a color depth of 16 bits, while my Pentax gives me RAW files with a color depth of 12 bits only. I cannot the tell the difference in my monitor or in the prints I have made. Probably this has importance for large professional work and in this particular respect the LX7 may have an advantage. I can extract good details from the light and dark areas, especially from the lights.
9. Use of optic filters, like an UV, Neutral or CPL
A good capability that the LX7 has is that you can use threaded 37mm filters. The only thing you need is an unexpensive adapter ring that is very easy to install. This is a very distinctive advantage that the LX7 has that I have not seen pointed out in most of the reviews I have read. The other big advantage it has is the incorporated neutral density filter that is built in the camera and can be used by the push of a dedicated button. Again, to my knowledge no other camera in this category has this capability.
10. Reasonable price
The LX7 also has a nice price advantage over most of its rivals, especially the Sony RX100 line. You can get it now in Amazon for around 340 dollares, although the price fluctuates and is a good idea to check it regularly. I bought mine in Amazon, used, like new, including a spare battery and case for around 220 dollars. It was in perfect condition and you can’t beat that price.
11. Moderate to low noise at high ISO settings
I have found that noise is not a problem up to 800 ISO. The settings of 1600 and 3200 produced and amount of noise that could be managed nicely in post processing and for computer use and small prints ISO 6400 is adequate. In BW pictures, noise can be used to your advantage, giving that special grain look that you achieved using Kodak Tri X film.
12. Eye level viewfinder
Another of the critics I have found in the review is that the LX7 does not have an eye level viewfinder. In some cases it is not mentioned the existence of an electronic viewfinder, the LVF2, that is attached to the flash accessory shoe. I adds bulk to the camera (you can still pocket it in your jacket) and you can not use the case with it. But although is an expensive item, it is of very good quality, giving a very clear and detailed image that can be used in any circumstance, especially bright outdoors. It has the added advantage that it can be tilted up to 90 degrees, giving the possibility of waist level shooting. For me is a must have accessory.
13. Fast focusing
I have found that the focusing speed of the LX7 is nothing short of fantastic, even in low light, making this camera an excellent low light one in combination to its very fast lens. In this respect, it cannot be beaten, given the very sharp results you can get using its maximum aperture.
14. Good screen for composing and viewing
The screen is very good, with resolution over 900 K pixels, with good contrast and magnification when using it for viewing your pictures. The only thing I would have liked is a capability for tilting it. But I can live without it and the possibility of tilting the electronic viewfinder is a good substitute for it.
I don’t have a need for filming in most instances, but in those moments I used the LX7 for filming I was surprised by the very high quality of the clips I obtained. But my thing is photography, so I cannot fully evaluate the capabilities of this camera in this respect to this.
I always thought that the camera is a tool for taking photographs, the more important component of a good photo being the photographer. But the better the tool you have the more you can take advantage of it to achieve better results. In this respects, the LX7 is a formidable tool, that gives the photographer most of the capabilities he or she might ever need. I am far from exhausting the possibilities that this gem of a camera provides and suspect that there are many that I will probably never use. I would give this camera a punctuation of 9.9 out of a possible 10 and highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed.