I really have to commend our local London Camera Exchange stores (here in Lincoln), they usually manage to get hold of the latest photographic gear quite early and they are also quite happy for me to spend a few minutes trying out some of their gear too. I guess it helps that I am a good customer. :)
With the introduction out of the way they recently managed stock the Panasonic Lumix LX100, this is the final new compact camera that I wanted to try out. Like all of the other cameras this one was very light and also on the border of being too small; in fact it was too small for my friend Mike who has normal sized hands. The camera did have a nice solid feel too it, there was no creaking and it would certainly take a few knocks before it came to harm.
I tried out the viewfinder and like the RX100 it was really too small, I don’t like these teeny-tiny EVF (electronic viewfinders) that are now appearing on these compact cameras; they border on being too small to use I have to squint my eye to view them, this is not comfortable. I applaud and appreciate that these are becoming more common and I prefer them to be present over not having them but I am not sure if they will ever be used. The one on the Fuji is the smallest I would like to use and that also goes for the Olympus Stylus-1 as well.
Panasonic have gone retro with the LX100, we have an aperture ring on the camera as well as a shutter speed dial (both have an “A” setting allowing anything from full manual to aperture/shutter priority and full program) and we also have an exposure compensation dial too. I like the fact that the aperture dial on the lens has a protrusions to allow quick and precise changes by “feel” but otherwise I am not a fan of aperture rings and shutter speed dials.
Like all of the cameras these days the LX100 has WiFi and Panasonic can make good iOS/Android software so should allow full control, picture transfer amongst other capabilities.
Now on to the main selling point of this camera, Pansonic unlike Sony and Canon went with a four-thirds sensor in this camera which is much larger. If they allowed the whole senior to be used the lens that they would have to use would have been much larger than the one they fitted (a 24-75mm f1.7-2.8) so instead they took a leaf out of their older LX camera series and allowed just some of the sensor to be used whilst at the same time allowing different aspect ratios. Unlike other cameras they didn’t have to crop off parts of the sensor they just used different parts of the larger sensor – this is quite ingenious.
So the camera offers up to an effective 12MP as well as four aspect ratios as follows – 3:2; 16:9 1:1 and 4:3 (the megapixel rating does vary slightly spending on which ratio you choose). Like the LX series the ratio selector is located on the lens itself. I played with all of these and I cannot see why I would vary this much, I was happiest with 4:3.
The camera didn’t have a card fitted so I couldn’t try out the 4K video recording or the 4K picture mode either.
One thing I did like was that this is a true Lumix camera and is controlled just like the Lumix G series cameras so if you have an investment in them you will get on fine with this camera.
The 24-75mm lens is a OK range (if a little limiting) and is controlled via a rocker switch around the shutter release button or a further rotating ring around the lens. So we have an aspect ratio selector, an aperture ring, a user-selectable rotating ring and finally an focus mode selector all around the lens, fortunately this didn’t seem cramped. I have to say although there were no annoying clicks the ring didn’t seem right, the resistance was off and it seemed very slow. If you go into Manual-focus mode the ring controls focus and this by comparison was very nice – strange. Unusually for a Panasonic camera, there was a dedicated macro focus mode on the focus selector and it did allow very close focusing – nice.
I also tried many of the various modes on the camera – there is a plethora of AF modes (face detection, etc) and drive modes too. I don’t see this camera limiting you in any way as there is little missing. Typically for a compact camera the tripod socket was off-centre from the lens axis and the SD card socket was in there with the battery compartment – I hate that. :(
So all in all what did I think? I didn’t “connect” with the camera even though it is very feature-laden, has one of the largest sensors out there and does 4K video. My favourite new camera is Fuji X30, I prefer the camera’s larger size and viewfinder. It is also cheaper at £480 vs £699, I know that this is a little apple vs oranges but I prefer the larger and therefore more comfortable size.
My overall favourite compact camera on the market? This would be a close run thing between the Fuji and the Olympus Stylus 1 (£399), although the Stylus will most likely be updated early next year. When I am a position to purchase one I will have to do some extensive testing and try them out side by side.