Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on February 6 2009

I’ve just published my review of the Panasonic Lumix LS80. Be sure to check out full-sized photos taken straight out of the camera in the Panasonic Lumix LS80 photo gallery as well.


DPInterface Panasonic Lumix LS80 Review

Brad Soo – February 6th, 2009

panasonic ls80 intro

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 is a budget model from Panasonic. The camera offers 8 megapixels, 3X optical zoom, a 2.5 inch LCD and uses 2 AA batteries – nothing that special but for about a hundred bucks, it surely sounds like a good deal. Is the LS80 the best you can get from your money? Find out now.

Size and Weight

(196.4) 101.2 x 63.8 x 31.4 mm (160 g) – Canon PowerShot E1
(163.8) 94.2 x 54.6 x 15.0 mm (113 g) – Casio Exilim S10
(168.0) 91.0 x 55.0 x 22.0 mm (110 g) – Fujifilm FinePix J10
(167.7) 92.0 x 56.5 x 19.2 mm (116 g) – Kodak EasyShare M883
(163.0) 90.0 x 55.0 x 18.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S210
(161.0) 89.0 x 55.5 x 16.5 mm (104 g) – Olympus Stylus FE360
(188.9) 95.7 x 62.0 x 31.2 mm (129 g) – Panasonic Lumix LS80
(182.0) 98.0 x 59.0 x 25.0 mm (130 g) – Pentax Optio E60
(170.1) 91.4 x 58.4 x 20.3 mm (110 g) – Samsung SL201
(181.5) 91.4 x 61.0 x 29.1 mm (140 g) – Sony Cyber-shot S730
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Lumix LS80 turns out to be one of the bigger and heavier entry-level cameras out there since it uses AA batteries. On the positive note, it should fit larger pockets and the use of AA batteries almost always means very good battery life, as you’ll see later.

Box packaging

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 includes a set of pretty standard digital camera accessories:

  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Photo Fun Studio viewer, ArcSoft Media Impression & Panorama Maker)
  • User’s manual

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 has just 24 MB of internal memory which can’t hold many pictures. I would highly suggest getting at least a 2 GB memory card with the camera. The LS80 supports SD, SDHC and MMC cards, though with MMC cards, you cannot record movies (too slow).

450 shots – Canon PowerShot E1
280 shots – Casio Exilim S10*
150 shots – Fujifilm FinePix J10*
200 shots – Kodak EasyShare M883*
220 shots – Nikon Coolpix S210*
200 shots – Olympus FE370*
470 shots – Panasonic Lumix LS80
620 shots – Pentax Optio E60**
Not rated – Samsung SL201
440 shots – Sony Cyber-shot S730
* indicates the camera uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery
** the Pentax Optio E60’s battery figure is based on lithium AA batteries
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries according to CIPA Standard

The LS80 comes bundled with a pair of AA alkaline batteries which will last about 180 shots before ending up in the recycle bin. That’s why I’d recommend getting a set of rechargeable AA NiMH batteries which last longer (up to 470 shots) and can be used over and over again. The Panasonic Lumix LS80, as with other cameras which use AA batteries, performs above averagely with a set of rechargeables.

Accessories

There aren’t many accessories available for the Panasonic LS80; the most you’ll find are an AC adapter and camera cases.


Camera Tour

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 looks like a regular camera – lens and flash in front, LCD with buttons on the back. Speaking of buttons, there are few of them and along with the slightly raised grip on the right, the camera is easy to hold with one hand if needed. The build quality is decent – nothing feels flimsy despite the camera being made entirely of plastic. The Panasonic Lumix LS80 comes in your choice of black or silver.

panasonic ls80 front

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 features a 3X optical zoom lens equivalent to 33 – 100 mm, which means you get a wee bit more on wide-angle than other entry-level cameras. The aperture range of the lens is f2.8 – f5.1 which is about average for such a lens and of course includes optical image stabilization which helps compensate for shaky hands.

Above the camera’s lens is the LS80’s flash. Rated at Auto ISO, the flash is fairly powerful at wide-angle with a range of 30 cm to 5.9 m and about average at telephoto when the maximum range goes down to 3.2 m. Nearby is the camera’s autofocus assist lamp which doubles as a self-timer visual countdown light.

panasonic ls80 back

On the back of the LS80 is a 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. The screen is sharp and viewable in both indoor (it brightens the image automatically) and outdoor (via the Power LCD function) conditions. The Power LCD function brightens the LCD so you can see the display under bright light – it can be toggled manually or you can set the camera to do it automatically. A third mode called High angle mode makes the LCD much brighter so you can hold the camera above your head and still see the display image.

panasonic ls80 scr3

Directly on the right edge of the LCD are the camera’s mode switch which moves you between shooting and playback mode as well as a mode button which allows you to choose a “sub-mode”: Intelligent Auto, Normal (aka Program mode), scene mode or movie mode.

Lower down is the five-way navigation pad:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)/Exposure bracketing
  • Down – Macro mode (On, off)
  • Left – Self timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, on, slow sync with red-eye reduction, off)
  • Center – Main menu/Set

The camera has an exposure bracketing feature which can take three photos in a row, each with a different exposure value (adjustable to +/- 1 EV in 1/3 steps) – a rarity on entry-level camera models.

Lastly, we have the DISPLAY and QUICK MENU buttons. The DISPLAY button toggles the information displayed on-screen while the QUICK MENU button which brings up a menu with several shooting settings you can access quickly. The quick menu button doubles to delete photos in playback mode.

panasonic ls80 scr2

Here’s what you can do in the quick menu:

  • Optical image stabilization (Off, mode 1, mode 2)
  • Intelligent ISO (On, off)
  • Autofocus mode
  • White balance
  • ISO speed
  • Image resolution
  • LCD mode (Off, Power LCD, Auto Power LCD, high angle)

panasonic ls80 top

On the top of the Panasonic Lumix LS80, there are the microphone (the single hole), a shutter button with a wrapped around zoom lever, on/off switch and easy zoom button. The easy zoom button brings the lens quickly from wide-angle to telephoto in a single press, while a second press will activate the camera’s extended optical zoom function. A third press will bring the lens back to wide-angle.

panasonic ls80 side

On this side of the Panasonic Lumix LS80 is a port under a cover which is used for both A/V out and USB connectivity (The camera supports USB 2.0 High-speed). Let’s take a closer look:

panasonic ls80 port

panasonic ls80 slot

On this side of the camera is the memory card slot covered by a door of average quality. The door doesn’t really open wide enough so you might have to pinch the end of the memory card to get it out.

panasonic ls80 bottom

Finally we have the battery compartment here with a plastic tripod mount. You MIGHT be able to swap batteries while the camera is on a tripod. So in case you haven’t noticed, the Lumix LS80 lacks a speaker so you can record audio and movies with sound but you can’t play them back on the camera itself.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

panasonic ls80 scr1

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 is able to show camera settings, exposure info and a simple battery indicator on its screen but there’s no live histogram here. An optional framing guideline overlay is available and can be turned on in the menu.

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 offers several image resolution choices which include 8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP 2 MP and VGA and there are two image compression settings available for pictures as well: Fine and Standard.

Selecting lower JPEG image resolutions on the Lumix LS80 automatically enables “Extra/Extended Optical Zoom”, which is essentially cropping, so you can get additional reach without lowering image quality (unlike traditional digital zoom). You can extend the LS80’s zoom range up to 4.8X when you select the 3 megapixel setting on the camera.

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Here’s the full menu system of the Panasonic Lumix LS80 but note that some of the following settings can be changed in the camera’s Quick Menu:

  • Picture size, quality and aspect ratio
  • Intelligent ISO (On/off)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, custom)
  • Autofocus mode (5 point multi-area, center, center high-speed)
  • Quick AF
  • Burst mode
  • Digital zoom
  • Color mode (Standard, natural, vivid, black & white, sepia, cool, warm)
  • Optical image stabilization mode (Off, mode 1, mode 2)
  • Autofocus assist lamp (On/off)
  • Clock set

Intelligent ISO mode on the LS80 automatically adjusts ISO according to the amount of movement in the frame. More movement would mean a higher ISO setting to freeze action while a static scene will make the camera choose a low ISO setting. Intelligent Exposure is similar to D-Lighting, iContrast and Shadow Adjustment on other cameras, and brightens dark areas of your photo at the cost of some increased noise.

The Intelligent Auto mode is on the Lumix LS80 is essentially like an automatic mode added with Intelligent ISO, optical image stabilization and backlight compensation, all set to automatic (Thus, the camera handles everything).

The camera also has many scene modes you can choose from such as portrait, soft skin, self-portrait, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, food, party, candle light, baby 1 & 2, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, high-speed burst, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow and aerial photo.

  • High sensitivity mode reduces resolution to 3 megapixels while automatically selecting an ISO speed between 1600 – 6400
  • High speed burst lowers resolution to 2 megapixels and allows you to take up to 100 photos at 5.5 FPS
  • Starry sky mode allows you to select a preset long shutter speed (15, 30 or 60 seconds)

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 does display a tooltip for each of its scene modes; telling you a brief description of what every mode is suited for. The Panasonic Lumix LS80 has a decent macro mode; you can go as near as 5 cm to a subject at wide-angle and from 30 cm at telephoto.

Finally, there’s optical image stabilization on the Panasonic Lumix LS80 with two modes: Mode 1 and Mode 2 (You can opt to turn the system off as well). The image stabilization system is more active in mode 1 to help you compose your photos steadily while mode 2 is more effective, activating the Mega OIS system only when the photo is taken.

Setup menu

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Video Recording

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 has the regular ol Panasonic WVGA (848 X 480) movie mode which records at 30 FPS with sound until the memory card fills up. You can choose one of three resolutions: WVGA (848 X 480), VGA (640 X 480) or QVGA (320 X 240) and select to record at either 30 or 10 frames per second for them. All movies are recorded in Quick Time Motion JPEG format.

You cannot use zoom or focus while recording a movie but you can activate optical image stabilization. Movie quality was average with decent sound.

Performance

All performance testing of the Panasonic Lumix LS80 was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 boots up quickly in under 2 seconds. Autofocus is fast as well with average focusing times of 1/5 to 1/2 second. Low-light focusing can take up to a second or two but was good thanks to the LS80’s autofocus assist lamp.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.1 seconds, above average
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 6 seconds on average

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 features a nice burst mode which shoots at 2 frames per second at full resolution up to four Fine photos or until the memory fills up with Normal photos. A high-speed burst mode (classified as a Scene Mode) shoots at 5.5 frames per second up to 100 photos (albeit at a lowered resolution of 2 megapixels).

The camera’s lens moves silently from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.5 seconds with many steps in between. If you want to move that lens to full zoom quickly, you can always hit that Easy Zoom button on the top of the camera. The LS80 powers down with the lens at telephoto in less than 3 seconds. The Panasonic Lumix LS80’s performance is overall quite fast and won’t keep you waiting.

Image Quality

Let’s check out how the Panasonic Lumix LS80 performs in terms of image quality:

iso100

ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/5 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/8 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/15 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/30 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f2.8, 1/60 sec)

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 produces good image quality from ISO 100 and 200. Noise goes up at ISO 400 and you’ll notice the camera’s detail smudging trait which is a side effect of noise reduction. Noise only gets worse at ISO 800 and picture quality becomes unusable at ISO 1600.

Vignetting, barrel distortion and pincushion distortion levels are low while there’s no chromatic aberration (color fringing) since the camera’s processor removes it automatically. The camera does produce some redeye in people photos but unfortunately, there’s no redeye removal tool here on the LS80 at all, unlike higher end Lumix models.

Overall the Panasonic Lumix LS80 takes good quality pictures with low amounts of distortion and acceptable amounts of noise to ISO 400 (Though you could push it to 800 if you’re prepared for the results). The only thing you need to watch out for is the camera’s tendency to occasionally smudge details away with noise reduction.

Photo gallery

Check out full-sized photos taken by the camera in the Panasonic Lumix LS80 photo gallery.


Playback

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The Panasonic Lumix LS80 has a fairly standard playback mode. You can browse through pictures and play back video with sound. There are three sub-playback modes: normal playback is your typical playback mode; you can also play back photos by category or via the slideshow feature (complete with music and effects).

You can playback photos in sets of 12 or 30 thumbnails or by date in calendar view. Then there are the usual playback features such as print marking, voice clip attachment, image protection and the ability to tag photos as “favorites”. Photos can be enlarged by 16X so you can inspect details or check focus. The LS80 features several other tools like title editing, resizing, trimming (aka cropping), aspect ratio conversion, image rotation and the ability to add text stamps to photos.

panasonic ls80 scr11

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 shows you exposure information and shooting details about your photos but lacks a histogram.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix LS80 is a basic entry-level camera with 8 megapixels, 3X optical zoom and a 2.5 inch LCD. The LCD is very usable and the lens which starts at 33 mm is a small but useful plus. The LS80’s plastic build is not flimsy but I did find that memory card door not very sturdy and it doesn’t open up wide, making it hard to swap memory cards. There’s no speaker here either, means you can record movies with sound but only hear it later on your computer.

Battery life and performance have generally been the strengths of Panasonic cameras and all is well here. Image quality is good as well with the exception of the usual detail smudging and the fact the LS80 does not have any redeye removal tool.

Overall, I would say that the Panasonic Lumix LS80 is a good deal for your hundred quid which you could use mostly for point-and-shooting still photos (hopefully not too many pictures of people with flash which would result in redeye). Just be prepared to watch silent movies if you decide to play back video on the camera itself.

What’s hot:

  • Good image quality; automatic color fringing and redeye removal
  • Viewable LCD, 3X zoom lens starts a little wider than regular 36 mm lenses
  • Excellent battery life
  • Quick in the performance department
  • Many scene modes and Intelligent Auto; scene mode tooltips

What’s not:

  • Some detail loss from noise reduction
  • No on-board speaker so you can’t play back sound!
  • Redeye is present; No red-eye removal tool
  • Flimsy card compartment door; doesn’t open wide
  • No manual controls

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB or 4 GB high-speed SD/SDHC memory card
  • A set of rechargeable AA NiMH batteries and a charger


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