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Sep 17

Hands On: Panasonic LX100, GM5, Voigtländer 10.5mm f/0.95 and more

Continuing the Day 2 coverage of Photokina, we’re off to Panasonic, to se what they’ve put together for this year.  There were a number of releases from Panasonic, though nothing earth shattering.  Or was there?  Let’s dive in with the LX100

Panasonic's New LX100 with 4/3 sized sensor

Panasonic’s New LX100 with 4/3 sized sensor

The Panasonic LX100 is Panasonic’s foray into large sensor compact cameras.  The LX line has always had good quality, but used smaller sensors.  Meanwhile, Sony with their RX100 line and RX1, Fuji with the X100 series and Sigma with their APS-C compacts have been staking out this niche.  Panasonic responds by skipping the 1″ sensor and sticking a 4/3 sized sensor in the camera.  In order to keep the camera as small as possible, they’ve made the lens cut off a bit of the sensor and used a regular 4/3 sensor as a multi-aspect sensor.  As such, the camera has a 2.2x crop factor and a bit more than 12 megapixels.  Still, the image quality should be stellar.  Of course, I was unable to use my memory card in the LX100, but I did spend a significant amount of time with the camera.

The body is magnesium with a small but comfortable grip on front.  It feels rather nice in the hand.  It’s not a super small body, being a fair bit larger than an RX100, but it should still easily fit in a jacket pocket.  This is all the more impressive considering the range and speed of the lens.  The camera features a 24-75mm equivalent lens with an f/1.7 to f/2.8 aperture.  On a sensor this large, that will allow for very good image quality in dimmer light and even reasonable subject separation and shallow depth of field.

Panasonic has laid out the controls in a manner that is quite different from other Panasonic cameras, but will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s used a Fuji X camera.  In fact, the controls are almost identical to the Fuji X-E2 or X100T.  There is a shutter speed dial on top, an aperture ring and a dedicated exposure compensation dial.  Third stop shutter speeds are selectable by using the rear dial.  I personally love this control scheme, so I enjoy seeing on more cameras, though Fuji may be casting a disapproving glance at Panasonic.  That said, it’s not like Fuji patented these controls..they’ve been around for decades on older film cameras.  There is also a switch on the lens barrel to switch between manual and autofocus modes, and I did find this switch difficult to engage due to its close proximity to the body.

LX100 from the top, showing the lens extended and the contrls

LX100 from the top, showing the lens extended and the controls

The camera features an electronic viewfinder that is fairly large, but unfortunately is lower quality than the ones found in, say, the GX7.  It appears similar to the viewfinder in the GH2, though it’s a 16:9 aspect ratio and as such will show bars on the sides when shooting in 3:2 or 4:3.   Despite not being up to more recent EVFs in Panasonic bodies, it still is a nice finder, especially in such a small camera.

Manual focus is a breeze

Manual focus is a breeze

The LX100 is responsive and focuses quickly.  The only slow thing about the camera is that zooming with the toggle switch is quite leisurely. Manual focus is a breeze with the auto enlarging patch and focus peaking.  It’s easy, clear and accurate.  I can’t judge absolute image quality due to not seeing full resolution files, but looking at the rear LCD, the lens on the LX100 seems to be very good, with excellent contrast and color and good sharpness.  Use with flash is also great, as it has a sync speed of 1/2000s with the lens’ leaf shutter. The sensor quality is a known entity, though, and should be similar to other recent Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras.  The LX100 has the potential to be a great all-in-one small camera.

The side of the body, showing the lens retracted and the AF/MF switch

The side of the body, showing the lens retracted and the AF/MF switch

Continue: Panasonic GM5, Voigtländer 10.5mm f/0.95 and Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

6 comments

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  1. dcseattle

    Jordan – so the LX100 is powerzoom only? No manual zoom? Is see only manual switches for AF/MF, aperture, focus and aspect ratio…

  2. Boston C

    Is the LX100 mechanical shutter sound very quiet? Given the leaf shutter, it should be. Am aware it has the electronic shutter too.
    This is the most exciting camera in a long while. Thx for the hands-on impression.

  3. Karl

    My question as well – only power zoom? If so that is a real shame and will take this camera out of consideration if that’s the case.

  4. Thomas S.

    As a user of an LX-7 I think I can say that the “slow zoom” never really gets in the way (what I expected in the beginning). Instead it allows for very precise framing. If it were quicker, it would just speed between the end points, and you’d have to step zoom push-push-push the lever all the time to get were you want. One big advantage for me is that I can operate the camera with one hand, e.g. while holding an umbrella. Maybe negligible in California, but handy in Europe!
    And the zoom motion is just gorgeous in video – so smooth with nice easing in-and-out!
    So the LX-100 has a power zoom as well – it is a compact after all. The only compacts with manual zooms seem to be a couple of Fujifilms – guess why no-one else is doing it.

  5. Wolfie

    The LX 100 is in no way a copy of any Fuji – it is a resurrected Lumix DMC-LC1 – that predates the Fuji “X” series by quite a few years.

    If you look at an LC1 you will see the resemblance is unmistakable: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-LhI1QT3h5MI/T2eXYpjptcI/AAAAAAAABtk/09j8nJ95p5c/s400/panasonic_lumix_dmc_lc1_3_4.jpg

    Regards

  6. Marc

    The Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 is an amazingly compact and lightweight 70-200mm equivalent. Really, really nice and perfect for normal daylight use. It’s not a fast lens, but it’s well build and you hardly notice that you carry it with you. It even has build in stabilisation that works really well too. The image quality certainly is there. It delivers photos with excellent sharpness and good contrast. Panasonic hit a homerun with this little lens!

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