DPInterface Panasonic Lumix LX2 Review
Brad Soo - April 27th, 2007

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 can be thought of as a fairly big upgrade to the LX1 with more resolution, a larger widescreen LCD, new processor and some other improvements here and there. Find out if it's a worthy upgrade in the review now.

Size and Weight

(172.6)  89.5 x 58.0 x 25.1 mm (150 g) - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (124 g) - Kodak EasyShare V705
(183.5)  97.5 x 59.0 x 27.0 mm (155 g) - Olympus FE200
(168.8)  94.9 x 51.9 x 22.0 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX30
(179.9)  97.7 x 57.1 x 25.1 mm (151 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX50
(187.8)  105.7 x 55.8 x 26.3 mm (187 g) - Panasonic Lumix LX2

Sad to see that compact cameras with a wide-angle lens are starting disappear from many manufacturers. Anyway, the Panasonic LX2 is the largest among those cameras. However, it has the highest resolution and the only one to have manual controls.

Open up the Box

The Lumix LX2 has a standard issue bundle:

  • Rechargeable CGR-S005A lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Lens cap with strap
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

Panasonic includes 13 MB with the LX2 sounds like a joke (And it probably is). I'd recommend getting at least a 1 GB, or even 2 GB SD card with the LX2. The camera takes advantage of high-speed cards with a noticeable performance increase. The LX2 supports SDHC cards as well (above 2 GB).

270 shots - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V705
290 shots - Olympus FE200
280 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX30
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX50
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix LX2

The LX2 manages 270 shots per charge (CIPA Standard), which is above average and highest among the wide-angle lens cameras.

 

Extras

The only accessory available for the LX2 is an AC adapter.

Camera Tour

The Panasonic LX2 looks very much like its predecessor. It feels solid, even the plastic doors and has quite a few external controls to make changes to settings easier. The LX2 is available in silver or black.

On the front, there's a 28-112 mm f2.8-4.9 lens which is equivalent to a 4X zoom range. Because the CCD is a widescreen 16:9 sensor, the sensor becomes less wide when you use the 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratios. This also means that you're getting more picture with the real 16:9 mode as opposed to other cameras which just chop the top and bottom portions of the image to make it seem panoramic. Here's a little demonstration from the LX2:


4:3 aspect ratio on a typical camera


The Panasonic LX2's unique 16:9 sensor produces real widescreen photos

This means that at 3:2, you're getting 8.5 MP images at 32-128 mm and 4:3 photos are 7.5 MP at 34-136 mm. The only way to get the benefit of 28 mm wide-angle is the 16:9 ratio.

To the upper right, there's a popup flash unit, manually released by a switch on the top. The flash has a maximum range of 4.9 m at wide-angle and 2.2 m at telephoto. The AF-assist/self-timer lamp is located to the left of the lens.

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 has a new 2.8 inch widescreen LCD (versus a standard 2.5 inch display on the LX1). The good news about this new LCD is that those 16:9 photos are not letterboxed anymore on screen, bad news is that Panasonic was probably too lazy to revamp the menus and just "stretched" them (As you'll see in a moment). The screen has 207,000 pixels and is really sharp. The LCD has excellent low-light visibility as it brightened things up a lot and above average outdoor visibility.

On the top right side of the camera is a AF/AE lock button which is used to lock exposure and focus - Useful when recomposing your photos. Then there comes the 5-way joystick which is used to tweak manual controls and settings such as aperture and shutter speed.

Press the joystick down (center press) and it brings up a function menu. The function menu allows you to quickly change AF point mode, metering mode, white balance, ISO, resolution and compression settings.

Around the Menu/Set button is the 4-way controller:

  • Up - Exposure compensation, bracketing, flash exposure compensation, backlight on/off
  • Down - Review photo
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, on, on with redeye reduction, slow-sync, off)

The DISPlay button toggles the amount of information displayed when shooting or playing back. Holding down that button will bring up two LCD modes: Power LCD which brightens the display for outdoor viewing and High-Angle for shooting above heads in large crowds. The other button activates continuous shooting and deletes photos in playback.

It's crowded up here with a microphone, speaker, power switch, image stabilizer button and shutter button with a wrapped around zoom lever. Remember the popup flash I was talking about earlier on? Well, you'll find the switch up here to release it. And finally, we have the mode dial (Going clockwise):

  • Scene modes
  • Auto mode
  • Program
  • Aperture priority - Choose an aperture from f2.8 to f8.0
  • Shutter priority - Choose a shutter speed value from 8 seconds to 1/2000 sec
  • Manual - Same aperture range as above; full shutter speed range unlocked: 60 seconds to 1/2000 sec
  • Movie mode
  • PictBridge printing

As you can see from here, the LX2 has a protruding fixed lens barrel so the camera isn't as slim as it is. On the top of that barrel is an aspect ratio switch which moves you between 16:9, 3:2 and 4:3.

On one side of the camera, there's a USB 2.0 High Speed and an A/V Out port while the other side is left blank. On this side of the lens barrel is a switch for focus mode: Autofocus, macro and manual focus.

At the bottom of the LX2, there's a metal tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. The door is quite sturdy.

Shooting

The Panasonic LX2 displays every bit of shooting information you need. There's a live histogram, full exposure info, settings display and a battery indicator. The LX2 has several AF point modes - Center AF point (with high speed option), 3-point high-speed, 9-point and spot focus. The high-speed options speed up focus at the expense of the LCD freezing briefly during autofocus.

You can select a range of image resolutions from 10 megapixels (of course with the aspect ratio options I mentioned earlier) down to VGA plus three compression options - Fine, Standard and RAW.

The Panasonic LX2 has a 5 cm macro mode. There are many scene modes on the LX2 which include portrait, soft skin, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, self-portrait, food, party, candlelight, fireworks, starry sky, beach, aerial photo, snow and high sensitivity.

For those enthusiastic about control over their camera, there's stuff like:

  • 5 white balance presets with 2 custom spots
  • Color effect (Off, cool, warm, sepia, monochrome)
  • Contrast, sharpness, saturation, noise reduction (Low, normal, high)
  • White balance tuning (Towards amber, green, blue and magenta)

 

The Panasonic LX2 has an optical image stabilizer, which helps to reduce the effects of camera shake, with 2 modes. Mode 1 means the image stabilizer is always on so you can compose shots without shake, mode 2 only activates the system when the shutter button is pressed, making stabilization more effective.

Recording

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 takes higher resolution clips in movie mode. It can now record at 1280 x 720, though at a sluggish 15 FPS. Thankfully, there are the usual VGA (640x480), wide VGA (848x480) and QVGA (320x240) with sound at 30 FPS or 10 FPS till the memory card fills up.

Exposure is automatically adjusted and the optical image stabilizer is useable while recording. Unfortunately, both zoom and focus are fixed once filming is started. Overall movie quality was good.

Performance

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 starts up quickly in about 1.5 seconds. The camera takes about 1/5 to 1/3 second to focus, with low-light focusing being excellent. Shutter lag was no problem.

Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.1 seconds, above average (4 seconds for RAW)
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery - 6 seconds
Optical zoom from wide-angle to telephoto - 2.2 seconds, many stops in between

There are a few continuous shooting options on the Panasonic LX2. Low speed drive shot 3 photos at 1.3 FPS, high speed boosts things to around 2.3 FPS with the same number of shots. Infinite mode shoots continually at 1.8 FPS till the memory card fills up - provided you have a high-speed card. The LCD refreshes many times but only to show the last shot taken which makes it difficult to catch fast moving subjects. Finally, the LX2 powers down quickly within 3 seconds with the lens at telephoto.

Image Quality

Time to take a look to see how the Panasonic Lumix LX2 fares in image quality:


ISO 100 (f4.9, 1/800 sec)


ISO 200 (f8.0, 1/800 sec)


ISO 400 (f8.0, 1/1300 sec)


ISO 800 (f8.0, 1/1300 sec)


ISO 1600 (f8.0, 1/1300 sec)

Initially at ISO 100 and 200, images are clean with very little noise. At ISO 400 noise appears and the noise reduction system will start to smudge your photo up. ISO 800 is useable for small prints and downsized viewing and I don't think ISO 1600 is that useful at all. Panasonic's latest noise reduction system tends to smudge away details while reducing noise. The best way to bypass that (though not completely) is by shooting in RAW and post-processing the photos yourself.

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) and soft corners were non-issues on the LX2. Barrel distortion slightly is noticeable and redeye is a slight issue.

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 produces photos with good image quality, mostly at lower ISOs. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't preserve details that well and high ISO photos tend to become watery, mushy paintings. The way to get the most image quality out of the camera is by shooting at the lowest ISO possible and/or use RAW. Although yes, some people might be bothered by these extra steps to get good photos and would rather have it out-of-the-camera in the first place.

Photo gallery

All photos viewable in the Panasonic Lumix LX2 photo gallery!

Playback

In playback, the Panasonic Lumix LX2 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as: Protect image, print marking, sound memo, slideshow, rotate, copy, resize and crop photos. You can also magnify still photos by 16X in 2X increments and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. Everything is shown about your photos including a histogram, exposure information and shot settings.

 

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 is a great compact (not in your back pocket though) camera. It can produce 10 megapixels of widescreen photos, a 28 mm wide-angle lens and of course has a lovely widescreen LCD on the back to show off your photos.

The camera has above average battery life, a fair amount of external control (without too much button clutter) and a function menu to quickly access several camera settings. The Panasonic LX2 has tons of scene modes, as well as full manual controls, for both beginners and pros alike.

In addition to the many controls, the LX2 also has advanced white balance tuning, found mostly on digital SLRs only. Couple that with great performance - the camera is speedy and has several continuous shooting options for all needs.

Image quality was good though the noise levels and camera post-reduction smearing are fair issues. Thank goodness there's a RAW image mode where you can save your photos from becoming paintings, to a certain extent. Movie mode is good, except the question about the usability of the choppy movies at the highest resolution.

The Panasonic Lumix LX2 looks like a good choice for landscape photographers with its three "wide" features (Photos, lens, LCD) who will likely be shooting in RAW at the lowest ISO. If you're looking to get really fine detail, shoot at high ISOs and/or make big prints, there are other cameras which can do the job better (less noise). Digital SLR owners looking for a pocket camera should consider looking elsewhere too, again, better options out there.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Prosumer]

  • 8.0 - Body/Exterior
  • 6.5 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.5 - Lens
  • 8.0 - Feature set
  • 8.0 - Controls and operation
  • 8.0 - Performance
  • 6.5 - Image quality
  • 7.5 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • Widescreen CCD with wide-angle lens
  • Above average battery life
  • Widescreen high-resolution LCD
  • Fast performance
  • Unlimited continuous shooting at full resolution
  • Great movie mode

What's not:

  • Above average noise with smearing and detail loss due to NR
  • Redeye
  • Sluggish frame rate at highest setting; no movie focus or optical zoom

Recommended Accessories

  • 2 GB high-speed Secure Digital card

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