DPInterface Panasonic Lumix LS2 Review
Brad Soo - April 2nd, 2006

Panasonic's new entry level camera of 2006 is the Lumix LS2. The Lumix LS2 features 5 megapixels, a 2 inch LCD with Panasonic's new "high-angle" function as well as an optical image stabilizer, a Panasonic standard. And it's relatively a bargain too; priced at $199. Check out how this camera performs now.

Size and Weight

This is how small the LS2 is compared to other cameras:

(195.0)  103.0 x 51.8 x 40.2 mm (160 g) - Canon PowerShot A430
(177.2) 90.0 x 60.0 x 27.2 mm (136 g) - Casio Exilim Z110
(180.5)  93.0 x 60.0 x 27.5 mm (140 g) - Fujifilm FinePix A500
(188.0)  95.0 x 62.0 x 31.0 mm (139 g) - HP Photosmart M425
(190.1)  92.2 x 65.7 x 32.2 mm (145 g) - Kodak EasyShare C643
(177.5)  91.0 x 60.5 x 26.0 mm (120 g) - Nikon Coolpix L3
(185.0)  96.0 x 63.0 x 26.0 mm (130 g) - Olympus FE130
(194.9)  110.5 x 53.5 x 30.9 mm (138 g) - Panasonic Lumix LS2
(190.0)  91.0 x 61.0 x 38.0 mm (150 g) - Pentax Optio 60
(188.7)  99.9 x 52.0 x 36.8 mm (133 g) - Sony Cyber-shot S600

Using the usual DPInterface unique unit, the Panasonic Lumix LS2 is a fairly big entry-level camera but not bulky. Its fairly large size is noticeable when you pick it up and it should be able to fit into one of the larger pants pockets. The Lumix LS2 is the only entry-level camera with optical image stabilization.

Open up the Box

With the Panasonic Lumix LS2, you'll also find:

  • 2 AA Oxyride batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has 14 MB of internal memory. So, getting at least a 256 MB high-speed card (which can hold 100 full-resolution photos) is a must. A high-speed card is required for the unlimited continuous shooting feature and also improves overall performance.

Bundled with the Lumix LS2 are two throw-away AA batteries. Don't be fooled by the "Oxyride" batteries - They last longer than conventional AA batteries, but are not rechargeable and will sooner or later end up in the trash. So get a set of 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries along with a quick charger. Using two AA NiMH batteries, the Panasonic Lumix LS2 can take about 390 shots (CIPA standard).

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 was able to endure my review tests using just 2 sets of AA batteries. Compared to other entry-level cameras which also use 2 AA batteries, here's how the LS2 does:

360 shots - Canon PowerShot A430
180 shots - Casio Exilim Z110
350 shots - Fujifilm FinePix A500
N/A - HP Photosmart M425
N/A - Kodak EasyShare C643
330 shots - Nikon Coolpix L3
N/A - Olympus FE130
390 shots - Panasonic Lumix LS2
270 shots - Pentax Optio 60
460 shots - Sony Cyber-shot S600

Extras

There aren't any accessories for the Panasonic Lumix LS2.

 

Camera Tour

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has 5 effective megapixels on a 1/2.5 inch CCD behind that 3x optical zoom lens. The lens equivalent to 35 - 105 mm and f2.8 - f5.0. I believe this lens is from the FX9. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 also has optical image stabilization which helps reduce blurring caused by camera shake. OIS shifts lens certain elements to counter camera shake.

Manufacturers normally say you can take shots up to 3 shutter speed stops slower and they still can be sharp. That's subjective though; it all depends how steady your hands are - I can take a steady shot even at 6 stops slower (I handheld a 1 second shot which came up sharp compared to the required 1/60th of second without OIS).

The built-in flash has a maximum range of 3.7 m at wide-angle and 2.2 m at telephoto which is okay. The AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp is located to the top right of the camera.

There's a raised bump, supposedly a grip, between those two rows of stickers (which you'll find on your camera too).

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has a 2 inch LCD which has just 86,000 pixels. The LS2's competitors' LCD units are about this size and resolution. The Lumix LS2's LCD is not that sharp but visibility was still good. In low-light, it brightens automatically so you can frame properly and outdoors, viewing was okay. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 does not have an optical viewfinder.

On the top right, there's plenty of room to hold the camera steady without your thumb having to rest on any button.

The DISPLAY button toggles LCD viewing info along with the live histogram and framing grids. Holding it down will enable the new High Angle mode which lets you frame when the camera is held above your heard and or at your knee. One thing the LS2 is the Power LCD function found on more expensive Lumix models which boosts brightness.

Next is the button which puts the Panasonic LS2 into single shot or one of three continuous shooting modes. The continuous button also deletes photos in playback.

The 5 way controller gives you quick access to change these:

  • Up - Compensation (Backlight, exposure, white balance, bracketing)
  • Down - Review
  • Left - Self-timer
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, flash on, slow-sync, off)

The MENU/SET button in the middle brings up a whole bunch of other options to customize.

I think the most interesting feature here is the compensation feature. The up button does several things. Backlight is selected if your subject has a bright background. Exposure compensation is your usual +/-2 exposure in 1/3 increments. White balance compensation allows you to set choose one of 3 preset options, set custom white balance or even adjust color temperature +/-1500K in 150K increments. Bracketing takes 3 shots with different exposures.

This is probably the first time I've heard of setting custom color temperature for white balance on an entry-level camera - Even most higher end cameras and beginner digital SLRs don't have this!

Under the buttons, there is a door covering the SD/MMC slot.

The top of the LS2 features a on/off switch, shutter button with a wrapped around zoom lever and a button to change OIS mode all packed towards the right. There's also a mode dial with these modes:

  • Movie mode
  • Macro mode
  • Economy - A mode that conserves energy
  • Auto mode - This is more like programmed auto where you can set stuff like ISO
  • Playback - Review photos you've taken
  • Simple mode - Just point-and-shoot. There's nothing to it!
  • Scene 1 and Scene 2 - Lets you select any one of the many scene modes on this camera. These two locations also store 2 of your favorite scene modes.

On the left side of the LS2, you'll find the I/O ports and on the right, you'll find a wrist strap mount and battery slot for 2 AA batteries.

By now, I know what you're thinking. But yes, the LS2 has no microphone and speaker which means bad news later on in the review.

Shooting

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has 2 image stabilization modes: Mode 1 and Mode 2. As I mentioned earlier on, you can change the OIS mode by pressing the small button next to the shutter button. OIS is always active Mode 1, whereas in Mode 2, the OIS activates only when the photo is taken. Contrary to popular belief, Mode 2 is always more effective.

Here's how OIS performs:

 

Both shots were handheld at 1/2 second. The shot on the right, taken with OIS on, is much sharper.

The Panasonic LS2's ISO sensitivity range is from ISO 80 to ISO 400 in these steps: 80, 100, 200, 400. For white balance, there's Auto, 3 presets, custom and color temperature selection (which I told you about).

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has 13 scene modes from you to choose from: Portrait, action, landscape, night portrait, night scene, fireworks, party, food, snow, soft, starry sky, candle and baby. Since the LS2's shutter speed range is 1 second to 1/2000 second, the Starry sky scene mode makes up for the lack of slow shutter. Choose from 15, 30 or 60 seconds.

The LS2 has various photo effects such as sepia, black-and-white, natural and vivid. Macro mode is average on the LS2 - It can go as close as 5 cm. For comparison purposes, the Canon A430 can go as close as 1 cm.

If you want, there are several auto focus options available too. Choose from 5 AF points, 1 AF point and spot focusing. Using one of the high-speed modes (namely 3 point high-speed and 1 point high-speed), you can focus very quickly at the cost of a brief LCD freeze.

The Panasonic LS2 has up to 3.8x zoom using Extended Optical Zoom. This is possible with any resolution smaller than 5 MP.

There's 6 image size options ranging from 5 MP to VGA as well as a 3:2 photo size along with 2 compression options which are Fine and Standard.

Recording

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 takes QVGA movies (320 x 240) at 30 FPS without sound till the memory card is full. A 10 FPS option is available but I think that's insane. You can't use the zoom while recording but you can activate OIS. Movies are recorded in QuickTime format. As comparison, the Canon A430 can use digital zoom and records video in the larger AVI format.

Also, I think a zoom feature should be implemented as this feature is available on most CAMERAS nowadays. I see that the Extended Optical Zoom feature found on the LS2 can be a potential method to zoom without recording the lens motor sound.

Video quality was good but audio is not recorded. How sad.

Performance

The LS2 turns on quickly in 1.8 seconds. Using autofocus, it took 0.6 seconds to lock focus whereas high-speed autofocus was so fast, I couldn't even notice the camera focusing. Pretty amazing for, again, an entry-level camera. If you don't mind the LCD hesitating for a moment when using high-speed AF, then you should probably stick with that. Shot to shot speed was 2 seconds and flash recycling time, about 7 seconds.

Based on my testing with a 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD, the Panasonic Lumix LS2 can fill up the memory card with photos at 1.5 FPS in continuous shooting drive. While not many digital cameras can do that, this one can (The Canon A430 can do that as well). The are two other continuous modes as well: Low-speed (Which took 4 photos at 1.8 FPS) and high-speed (Which took 6 photos at 2.7 FPS). I think the high-speed mode is best suited for sports/action photography.

The lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto in about two seconds. When it comes to powering down, the LS2 needs a while to detract its lens.

Image Quality


ISO 80 (f2.8, 1/4 sec)


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


ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/10 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/25 sec)

The LS2 produces fairly sharp photos though noise is evident (starting from ISO 100) and chromatic aberration (Color fringing) is visible. Distortion is not visible and softness is not a problem. Red-eye is common on most small cameras, including this one. In macro flash shots, the flash did not throttle down enough and caused most photos to be overexposed. Overall, image quality was average with noise being an issue.

Photo gallery

Check out the Panasonic LS2 photo gallery for more photos taken by the Lumix LS2.

Playback

In playback, the Panasonic Lumix LS2 can playback stills and movies (Without sound) as well as perform these functions: Protect image, rotate, resize, crop, copy, slideshow and print marking (The LS2 is PictBridge enabled). The Panasonic LS2 has a selectable 9 and 16 photo thumbnail mode and a bizarre 25 photo thumbnail mode.

You can also zoom up to 16x into still photos taken and take a look around using the 4 directional buttons. Choose to see no info, basic info or lots of info (Shutter speed and aperture values are shown) about your photos. When it comes to histograms, the LS2 displays a histogram in playback as well as a live histogram while shooting.

 

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix LS2 has everything an entry-level camera should have. Featuring 5 effective megapixels, a 2 inch LCD, excellent battery life and simple menus and controls. It also adds something nice - optical image stabilization.

Which entry-level camera has optical image stabilization? Well, only the Panasonic Lumix LS2. It helps counter camera shake caused by low-light or your average shaky hands. Wait a minute, the LS2 has another very unique feature as an entry-level camera: White balance set via color temperature - Even some digital SLRs don't have this!

Using its infinite continuous mode, the Lumix LS2 can shoot without stopping at 1.5 FPS, provided that a high-speed card is used. And autofocus speed using high-speed AF was a blast!

However, the Panasonic LS2 also has its downsides. The 2 inch LCD is low resolution not and just nearly as bright as on competing cameras. Photo quality was good except noise levels were fairly high. The movie mode is not very exciting either - small resolution paired with no audio.

As an entry-level camera, don't expect any manual controls on the Panasonic LS2. But it makes up (sort of) for that with excellent battery life, optical image stabilization and advanced white balance control. The Panasonic LS2 also features speedy autofocus and great performance. If you're a beginner in photography and that's what you want, this is for you. But if you're looking for better image quality and movie mode but willing to sacrifice OIS and fast AF, then take a look at the Canon A430.

What's hot:

  • Great battery life
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Live histogram and exposure info
  • Extremely fast
  • Unlimited continuous shooting
  • Advanced white balance control
  • User friendly with simple controls and menus
  • Very affordable at $199

What's not:

  • Low resolution LCD
  • Poor movie mode
  • Macro mode not as close as on other cameras
  • Image quality is so-so; high noise levels
  • Red-eye
  • No movie zoom

Recommended accessories:

  • 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and a quick charger
  • 256 MB high-speed SD card

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