The LX series constitutes Panasonic’s presence in the professional compact camera market and over the years, have become extremely popular.
LX5 was announced in July 2010, exactly two years after the launch of the very successful Panasonic LX3, which SP reviewed in February 2009. The LX5 costs about US$ 125 more than the LX3. So what extras do we get for the enhanced price? Read on…
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
Finished to a very high standard, the Panasonic LX5 is a diminutive shirt-pocketable compact that can serve as a back-up to a D-SLR. Like the LX3, its outer shell is made from metal and feels very durable. The tripod mount is made from metal but is off-centered. The camera weighs approximately 271 g, a mere 6 g more than the tried and tested LX3.
Let’s first check out the differences between the LX5 and the LX3.
Besides the above mentioned differences, the LX5 has a terminal to attach an external Electronic Viewfinder (optional). This is the same viewfinder used for GF1 and GF2.
The Panasonic Lumix LX5 is a 10.1 megapixel digital compact featuring a 1/1.63 – inch Type CCD sensor. We are glad that Panasonic has followed in the footsteps of the competition (the Canon G11, G12, Nikon P7000) by not increasing the pixel rating (without increasing the sensor size), which only adds to the digital noise, especially at higher ISO sensitivities. The LX5 employs a LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON 1:2.8-3.3 lens with an equivalent focal length of 24-90 mm. The lens is constructed with 10 elements in 9 groups that include 3 aspherical lenses and 5 aspherical surfaces. The lens also offers Power Optical Image Stabilization (Power O. I. S) which, claim Panasonic, is twice as good as the Mega Optical Image Stabilization (M. O. I. S) used in earlier Panasonic models. The LX5 offers multi-aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, !:9 and 1:1) but the maximum megapixel ratings change with the aspect ratio: 4:3 (10MP); 3:2 (9.5MP); 16:9 (9MP); 1:1 (7.5MP)
Pictures can be shot in JPEG (2 compression ratios) or RAW (uncompressed or compressed). ISO sensitivity can be set to Auto, Intelligent ISO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, or 12,800. Please note that at ISO 6400 and 12,800, the LX5’s pixel rating drops down to 3 million. According to Panasonic, the LX5 can take pictures in light as low as 3Lux when i-Low light is used.
The LX5 has various focus modes: Normal, Macro, Quick AF, Continuous AF, AF Tracking, AF Area Select, Manual, Focus (Jog Dial). The following autofocus area modes can be selected:Face/AF Tracking, 23-point, 1-point, Spot (flexible/scalable). In Normal focus mode, the minimum focus distance is 50 cm. On Macro setting, the minimum focus distance is 1 cm (W); 30 cm (T).
Ten shooting modes are on offer: Intelligent AUTO, Program (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Creative Movie mode, My Color mode, Scene modes*, and 2 x Custom modes. Three metering modes are available: Intelligent Multiple, Center-weighted, and Spot. Exposures can be compensated up to +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV steps. Exposures can be bracketed in 3 frames with +/- 1/3 EV~3 EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 60 seconds to 1/4000 sec but varies according to the shooting mode. In Continuous shooting, the LX5 can be fired at full resolution at 2.5 frames per second for a maximum of 5 frames in Standard mode; Maximum 3 frames in Fine mode, or approximately 6 frames per second in High-speed Burst Mode (Image Priority); or approx. 10 fps (Speed priority).
* The Scene modes are: Portrait, Soft Skin, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, and Sunset. White Balance settings on the LX5 are: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set 1, 2, and Color Temperature.
The manually pop-up built-in flash offers the usual flash modes but is slight less powerful (flash range is up to 7.2 m at Auto ISO) than the one in the LX3 (flash range up to 8.3 m). Dedicated external flashguns can of course be used with the LX5, as is possible with the LX3.
Images are stored in SD/SDHC/SDXC card. The LX5 is powered by a Li-ion battery. Optional AC adapter is available. The camera weighs 233 g including the battery, and measures 110 x 66 x 43 mm.
The LX5 takes about 1 second to get ready to shoot after you switch on the camera. The camera is comfortable to hold and operate when using both hands, but just like the LX3, it is not convenient to operate the camera using one hand (anyway, that is a practice we do not recommend). The user interface is simple, and the LX5 is a pleasure to use, but you have to be careful about the AF switch (on the lens) which sometimes changed positions inadvertently during our tests. Also, Panasonic could have labeled the controls on the rear of the camera to be more legible. Silver lettering on a silver base is difficult to read!
Note: We were unable to check the performance in RAW as we did not receive the required software.
We were impressed with the LX5’s overall performance though we felt that the (JPEG) images were slightly soft out of the box but they sharpened well in Photoshop. Images shot outdoors seemed crisper and with reasonably good color saturation. The LX5’s native image size at 300ppi was 9.12 x 12.16-inches. At this size, we did not observe any digital noise throughout the ISO range (up to 3200). At 25 percent screen size, images appeared slightly ‘soft’ from ISO 800 onwards. ISO 3200 also showed a bit of noise but was totally acceptable. At 50 percent screen size, ISO 800 showed traces of noise, but again, was totally acceptable. At this size, ISO 3200 was noisy. As mentioned earlier, the LX5’s resolution drops to 3-megapixels at ISO 6400 and 12,800. At these sensitivities, images were noisy.
On the White Balance front, the performance of the LX5 was excellent in sunlight, shade, as well as in tungsten light and good in flash (very slight bluish cast, which may not be noticed by most users). Flash exposures were decent but we would take the suggested flash range with a pinch of salt.
At its widest focal length and with the lens wide open, we found no corner darkening, which is commendable. However, barrel distortion was observed throughout the focal range. Flare was noticeable at the widest aperture at the widest focal length, but we did not notice any chromatic aberration, which speaks volumes for Panasonic’s R&D.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Panasonic LX5 has been long awaited in the Indian market. We understand from Panasonic that the camera will be available at an MRP of Rs.32,990. At this price, and considering that competing models like the Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 are similarly priced, we feel that the price is okay. As with all current digital cameras, we expect the price to fall in a few months. We trust Panasonic’s distribution in India will do justice to the product.
Design and Build Quality 19/20
Key Features 19/20
Value for Money 16.5/20
+ Good image quality
+ Very compact
+ Very useful 24 mm equivalent wide-angle lens
+ Dedicated accessory shoe
– LCD panel gets too smudgy
– Finger grip could have been better
– AF mode switch twiddly
– Labels at camera rear difficult to read even in good light
In spite of the few niggles that we have pointed out, the Panasonic LX5 is an excellent performer, and compared to the competition, is the smallest in size. The build quality is superb. We say its a winner all the way. Best Buy!