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Customer Review

674 of 701 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PANA keeps improving on the LX3, but still not "perfect...", August 26, 2012
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This review is from: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7K 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Optical zoom and 3.0-inch LCD - Black (Electronics)
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.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 40 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 27, 2012 4:54:55 AM PDT
JS says:
Great, balanced review thanks - appreciate you taking the time as the owner of both the LX7 and RX100. As an LX3 owner being tempted to upgrade by these two, it is very useful to hear another LX series fan articulate the pro's and cons of each in use. Nice one. Personally I'm just not sure if I can give up the 24mm, and I do love the feel in the hand especially the manual aspect switch of the LX3, though the Sony's reputed superb all-round performance and (in theory) go-everywhere pocket-ability does have me wondering. May I ask how do you find the "pocketability" of the LX7 - as I understand its waistline has expanded a little since the LX3/5, which were already jacket pocket material only...

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 27, 2012 10:09:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2012 6:16:44 PM PDT
J Sullivan: Hey, I hope you're following this because my original answer was misleading -- I have to post some pics of the RX100 and the LX7 back-to-back, as they're a lot closer in size than I indicated. Nevertheless, the LX7 is longer in lens, wider, and taller than the Sony, but for the most part we're talking millimeters. Despite this "smaller than I imagined" difference, the LX7 (and other LX-series cameras, for that matter) do feel larger in-pocket than the RX100, and there's no doubt that the flatter lens is largely responsible for this. I'll get these pics posted as soon as I can, but it may not be until Monday.

Posted on Sep 7, 2012 3:14:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 7, 2012 4:06:49 AM PDT
Sam-Theo says:
Thanks for such a comprehensive review. As a LX3 as well as LX5 owner, I awaited the release of LX7 with great deal of excitement, based on my results with LX5, I was definitely ready for an upgrade to LX7, main attraction being a 1.4 max. aperture plus 24mm at the wide end Leica lens. Already have LVF-1 viewfinder and spare battery so there was logic in buying the coveted LX7!!
On LX7 release I discovered LVF-1 is not compatible with LX7. Digesting several reviews invariably comparing LX7 with RX100, I ended up buying the RX100. I HAVE NO REGRETS WHATSOEVER. Between the two cameras I get excellent quality from both as well as an enormous variety of options to amuse myself with. Isn't that what a HOBBY is all about?

Posted on Oct 10, 2012 5:06:11 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 8, 2012 4:28:15 PM PST
Steve says:
The key difference between the LX7 and the RX100 is the aperture when zoomed. There is a 2.5 stop difference between the cameras when zoomed. This means that (when fully zoomed) you'd be using ISO 2500 on the Sony when the LX7 is at 400 under identical low light conditions. It also translates to shallower depth of field for the LX7 for zoomed shots.

So if you like to zoom in low light, or like shallow depth of field on you telephoto shots, the LX7 may be the better choice. If you primarily shoot at wide angle and shallow depth of field on zoom shots is not important, the Sony might be the better choice as it has the bigger sensor and more megapixels.

In addition to the LX 7, I own a Sony Nex 7 which has superb image quality, very good high ISO and 24 MP which allows serious cropping but it is still hindered by the fact that the aperture stops down the second I use any zoom. I guess I am spoiled as I have mainly shot with fixed aperture F2.8 nikon lenses which dont stop down when zooming but try lugging those around for a day while traveling. IMHO, the LX 7 makes the best compact travel camera if wide angle and fast apertures are important to you.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2012 12:27:05 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 11, 2012 12:27:49 PM PDT
I completely agree with your assessment.

Therein lies the dilemma: indoors, I stick almost exclusively to the wide end, and despite the nice image quality of the Sony, I immediately felt constrained by the RX100's limited wide angle, and missed the Panasonic's physical ratio switch.

It largely boiled down to friendliness of use and flexibility of composition, rather than strictly image quality.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2012 11:20:53 PM PST
Steve says:
I agree. I have several cameras that have superior image quality but everyone of them are significantly larger. The LX 7 is the only camera in my arsenal that can be with me 24/7 without noticing the weight or size. While the Sony Nex 7 is "compact", it is not pocketable with any lens other than the 16mm 2.8 and even then it is significantly larger than the LX 7. The 16mm 2.8 is slow compared to the LX 7's 1.4 lens (2 full stops) so anything I'd shoot at iso 400 on the LX 7 would require iso 1600 on the sony Nex 7. The Sony is quite a bit better at high iso's so its a bit of a wash for low light, except when zoomed in, when the sony stops down to 6.3 in a heartbeat (18-200mm lens).

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 6:07:24 PM PST
Any chance you would be able to comment on a decision between the lx5 and the lx7? With the sale price, the difference is only $50 and seems worth the upgrade, but would love your thoughts.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 7:31:53 PM PST
LX7, without hesitation!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2012 8:53:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2012 8:54:51 PM PST
Steve says:
for $50, the LX7 is a no brainer. For that matter even if it was $100 difference, it would be a no brainer. For the sale price fo $299, its a screaming deal. There has never been a camera this capable in a compact form factor at any price, let alone $299!

When zoomed, the Lx7 maxes out at 2.3 versus 3.3 for the LX5. That makes a big difference in low light situations. At the wide end, its 1.4 versus 2.0 which is a full stop, meaning anything you'd shoot at ISO 400 on the LX7 would be shot at ISO 800 on the LX5. Lastly, the LX7 shoots excellent 1080P video. For me, that feature by itself more than pays for the cost difference.

Posted on Nov 26, 2012 6:41:52 AM PST
Really appreciate the assistance. I went ahead and ordered the LX7 and looking forward to it arriving later this week. Thanks so much once again. Happy holidays.
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