PERFORMANCE & LENS QUALITY
One area where the LX is really impressive is SPEED. First, it has a very speedy AF (at least in single AF, I have not tried CAF yet). The AF speed seems to be very high even in relatively dark situations and with all the benefits of the high accuracy of contrast AF.
That speed factor also applies to the frame rate. In continous drive mode (which Panasonic calls burst) the camera given speed is eleven frames per second with AF blocked at the first view or six and a half frames per second with AF between the shoots. That is really impressive for a compact camera with a relatively large sensor.
However, where the camera is really shines is with the size of the buffer. The Panasonic burst mode has four speeds : Low, Medium, High and Super-high. When shooting in good light and with the AF disabled after the first image , I was able to shoot 23 images in RAW+JPEG (best setting) before the buffer shows any sign of slowing down and at least 32 images in JPEG Fine only. This is a VERY strong performance for a camera of this size !
Let’s examine now the quality of the files produced by the Panasonic LX100. Of course it is always better to use RAW files but the RAW files could not yet be processed by the major software companies at the time of the writing of this review. Therefore, all comparison images published here were made at the highest JPEG setting. All images are static subjects with a tripod to avoid any sharpness loss induced by subject or camera shake. All images are un-retouched except for Auto-contrast in Photoshop to avoid differences in contrast that could impact the perception of how sharp the image is.
One thing which is pretty obvious when looking at the files is that the IQ of the corners is not on par with the resolution on the center (far from it). At the maximum aperture this is no surprise considering the large maximum aperture (F 1.7) on a 3x zoom. The lens delivers good quality on center at F1.7 and gets to very high level at F2.8. But it requires to get to F5.6 to reach very sharp corners. Then the quality stays high until F11 when diffraction takes its toll. F16 is better avoided (which would be easier if the LX100 had a built-in ND filter).
Here are the center and corner crops at 200 iso at widest focal length ( 24mm equivalent) :
First corner and center crops at max aperture F1.7
Now same at F2.8
Finally at F5.6
I have been testing the camera for several weeks and as documented in several reviews , there is no denying that the LX100 delivers serious image quality for both the size of the camera and lens and in regards to the sensor. However , I have also read some wording that would attribute to the LX100 an image quality identical to its larger siblings of m4/3 sensor without the ” additional crop” induced by the LX100 multi-ratio sensor and lens design. Simply put : it is not true.
When compared to the EM1 which has arguably the best micro 4/3 sensor available today (the Panasonic GH4 could also be used but I did not have access to the GH4 for this review) and to the best APS compact available today in terms of image quality (Ricoh GR) the differences are visible. As a disclaimer, it is very likely that the differences in sharpness between the files of those three cameras come, to some extent, from the image quality loss produced by the alias filter. It looks to me that the LX100 has a pretty standard alias filter, which I find disappointing for an “expert high-end compact” in this day and age. The Olympus Em-1 is said to have a very light alias filter. The Ricoh GR , in addition to its larger sensor, does NOT have any alias filter.
As a side note , please know that all files made with the Ricoh GR are made in the 4:3 ratio (despite the native 3:2 ratio of the APS sensor) so the difference in sensor size is not as big as you could think
Here is a comparaison between the LX100 at the FOV equivalent of 28mm and aperture of 2.8 at 400 ASA.
First the center crops :
Even on the computer at 50% size the difference is very clear. The details in the texture of the leaves are more detailed on the GR. Now let’s take a look at the corner crops ( a right corner crop in that instance) :
The differences are easier to spot and,in my eyes, more pronounced than in the center crops.
I have now been using the camera for more than 8 weeks and am still trying to figure out the best way to customize the camera to my needs. This is the price to pay for a rather high level of customization. It is worthwhile to notice that I have already changed some of my initial settings . For instance , I was initially thrilled to have the step-zoom function around the lens ring but after a few weeks of shooting , I am now reverting to using the step-zoom with the lever around the shutter. I am also so used to the amazing user interface of the Ricoh GR that I am not completely satisfied with some aspects of the LX100 user interface
|Ergonomics & Controls:|
|Value for money:|
- Nice size compromise between size and features
- Generally Good ergonomics
- High quality image and noise well controlled up until 3200 ISO
- Fairly good EVF ( but with odd image ratio)
- Good amount of customization
- Small battery and reasonably small charger in accordance with size of the camera
- No Neutral density filter
- Corners with sensibly lower resolution than center
- REC button not customizable (only on/off)
- Lens ring direction not customizable for stepzoom and a little bit too easy to move by mistake
- Battery level indicator pretty inaccurate ( like most other compacts)
- Weird placement of IA button ( and not customizable either)
- Special effect filters button not customizable
- No DNG raw option
- Some accessories still not available almost two months after camera became available