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mandag 6. oktober 2014

Panasonic Lumix LX100 Cat Among the Pigeons...Pros and Cons?

Sample shots and so on are now running from the usual sources as a trickle, which will soon become a torrent for the LX100 wee beastie from Panasonic.

Several of us in the forums predicted a single lens compact version of the mFT system, mostly we thought it would be either Olympus or perhaps the Leica brand who would swing in. However it was the R&D power house at Pana/Leica which got it out, first and maybe uniquely for a while at least.

"Large" sensor compacts are of course the whole raison d'etre for mFT and its immitators, and the life line which has kept Leica going as a brand apart, based on its core values and probably a well leveraged customer base. However single lens zoom compact cameras were still generally poking around in the smaller 1" (square inch) sensor, all be that with some very pleasing results, they were based on pushing the chips and most of all the in camera hard wired processing, especially the jpeg engine, to make flattering images, which after all is what the compact segment has been doing since the early days. High contrast, over sharpened, saturated images and now with a degree of smoothing to reduce noise. This area has been of course influenced by the pixel power ignorance that more pixels is better, and that digital crop zooms on these tiny chips is of some value.

Now there are several cameras at the high end of this from Fuji in particular in their X range with in built lenses, but it seems that Panasonic will indeed trompe le monde with their offering.  Why is that so and what may be the draw backs of this camera?

Pro's of the Lumix DMC LX100

1) Large sensor, proven mFT quality, dynamic range and ISO performance
2) Fast Lens, which is truly good for depth of field
3) Wide 24mm end - this is a deal maker!!!
4) Small size. It is inside jacket pocket size!
5) GH/GM/GH Features
6) 4K video
7) Clean design, no tilting screen and other stuff to break
8) Useable EVF
9) Price !! compared to mFT of the same f stop as a system


1) Panasonic's bad colour pallette in camera - skin tones and some odd magentas in particular
2) The long end is only 75mm, just useful for portraits
3) Potential softness in images with sub f4.0 aperture
4) Maybe also Softness and colour abberations at medium to high ISOs.
5) Quite complex menus, lack of multi button allocation to customise ?
6) First of type issues perhaps ?
7) No flash and other things like utility connector (mic in etc) and tilting screen, no touch control on the screen. LCD and not AMOLED screen, quite small these days too.
8) You cannot upgrade lenses to bigger telephoto than 75mm

Comments on the Design

I think it is kind of a bit me too in design" Hey look a retro camera , looks like a 1980 Ricoh range finder camera" , although it is very clean and does have simple rubber ergonomic pads which make it really look like a one hand operated street journalist camera. This is where they want to play, it competes with the Fuji xs and of course the PENS and Leicas, and is smarter than the Canon and Sony competitors.

Lost in Menus

It seems this camera will be like some other Pannys, big on menus when you want to do quite ordinary set ups like auto bracket, or use some of the funky features like video to still panorama.

Buttons and Dials

There is part of me which really likes the idea, like the Ricoh classic 35mm compact of the late 70s, that you have a good old aperture ring on the lens, and a shutter ring, with an exposure adjust wheel. Then I think, heck that is not really how I use a modern camera. Yes a clicking function ring on the lens, but rather a conventional DSLR thumb wheel for spinning though ASP settings, or useable with other features like exp' compensation.

The Canadian Eh? Camera Store did a pretty honest reveiw, got real excited and then backed off on the dials and wee buttons which did not seem customisable but did seem to get hit when feeling the way to the shutter release button

Bang for Buck / the IQ to Wonga Equation.

This camera will retail in europe for around 900 euros, plus of course you will want a big, fast expensive SDHC card for it, pushing it up over the 1000 euro mark. But then that is it! No more costly lenses, no more temptation to try a prime, or save up for the latest wide to mid range zoom. Essentially you have just bought yourself a 12mpx mFT camera with a 12/35 f2.8 lens for the price of JUST that lens plus a kit lens in your first purchase of the package. Add a comparable body and you are up at at least half the price again.

Okay, back off there, you would buy mFT for all the expandability ?  Well the fast primes and the new fast zooms are just WAY over priced. You are talking pro prices onto the format which inherently is not as good at DOF and a few other parameters than Full Frame.

Buying on a budget with kit lenses, you could go for a double kit with the two zooms, where the longer zoom makes an adequate portrait lens, but the lenses are quite slow and you run into short depth of field and hyperfocal distance. Okay olympus now boasts great high ISO performance, 16mpx croppability and improved IBIS on their top cameras but to get the same IQ as the new LX100 you are talking twice the money for body -glass combo. 

Thank fully though, Oly have sold a tonne of OMD cameras and Panny has sold wads of Lumix mFT so there is a second hand market out there, with quick sellers offering bargains if you are up early in the morning. So you could be looking at a 14/16 mpx body with the ISO performance, a long kit zoom with IS ( alternatively oly IBIS), a new fast zoom and either one of the wonderful primes such as the 17 or the 45 for around 900 euros on a very 'must sell today to buy a D4 " basis. Because more basic consumers have dabbled with advanced photography with mFT, but find their iPhone or S4 takes most of their actual shots, there is a get shot of it mentality out there which sets the cat amongst the pigeons of the old enthusiast sellers market, who would rather not sell than get less than 2/3rds the new price out of their kit.

A good thing about Panny is there penetration to the new high street /shopping centre chain stores so I will be able to pop out and have a play very, very soon with this camera and what I will be looking for is

1) Portrature - will this camera take those once a year iconographic family shots which I know I can get on my DSLR  ?  Is 75mm and f2.8 enough for me ?

2) Depth of field for portraits of couse, but also other things

3) Focusing - will there be foibles and mis hits?

4) Mode controllability , will the menus frustrate me?

5) Soft IQ when wide open ?

6) Peripheral abberations to IQ especially in 16>9 mode ?

Why I May Buy ASAP?

As you can tell dear reader, I am really champing at the bit on this camera. It takes my need to experiment with 24mm, semi macro and not least high DR, high res' video and exceeds this by having a f1.7 at the wide end and 4K video.

Also I have a burning need to get away from DSLR because I am ahem, using my mobile in far, far to many photo opportunities because the DSLR with three lenses, despite being Oly FT, is a whole camera bag. I also see that in mFT I would be carrying around three lenses and irritated in wet or dusty conditions about changes of lens.

Furthermore I now need high ISO. Have mono pod will travel, but need high ISO

In terms of resale too, I reckon a quick trial followed by purchase is low risk with this camera, it is likely not to be upgraded by panny for at least 18 months, giving a big resale window. They are good at stemming leaks in panny so that bodes also well.

The only reasons not to get this would be if an OMD system came on the market with a fast zoom and 45mm, and one wider prime for 1100 Euros, but that is unlikely. In any case my biggest hole is for a carry anywhere, point and shoot wonderful shots without worrying.

Alternatively the other reason would be that olympus come out with an XZ based on the mFT 16mpx chip and double trump the new king of compacts!!

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