The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is a unique compact digital camera offering photo enthusiasts the ideal way for capturing professional-quality photos and High Definition (HD) video. With an ultra-bright F2.0 ultra-wide-angle 24mm Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens, the Lumix LX5 minimizes image distortion, resulting in stunning, true-to-life images with outstanding resolution and detail. The 24mm wide angle lens offers extraordinarily large viewing space and now the optical zoom is extended to 3.8x (90mm) making the LX5 even more versatile.
The F2.0 lens is twice as bright as a F2.8 lens, making it easy to produce beautiful photos with a soft-focused background thanks to the shallow depth of field provided by the extra light.
In addition to the newly-designed lens, the Lumix LX5 features an image processing engine that combines technologies resulting in professional-quality photos, especially in low-light situations. Like its predecessor, the Lumix LX5 features the highly-acclaimed 10.1-megapixel CCD, but it has an expanded dynamic range by increasing the sensitivity and the saturation.
Very good still images
Improved AF and shutter lagCons
Near entry DSLR price
Very bright scenes pose problem in video mode
The new processing engine is the Venus Engine FHD instead of the Venus Engine IV of the LX3 and is said to provide “…higher-speed, higher-performance while compiling the Intelligent Resolution technology.”
The LX5 has picked up an AVCHD Lite HD video format to go with the Motion JPEG capability carried over from the LX3, along with a Creative Movie mode which allows the user to set aperture and recording speed during video capture. For still images, the camera offers the usual compact digital automatic and scene modes along with full manual exposure controls.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The LX5 fits the mold for most compact digitals in the under 5x zoom class – a rounded rectangular body with smoothed edges and large deck of cards size, although with a lens protruding from the front of the body in a more pronounced fashion than most others. As befits a compact digital sporting a $500 MSRP that abuts on entry-level DSLR country, body construction is metal and seems well built in addition to providing a hot shoe that most compacts only dream about.
Ergonomics and Controls
The LX5 is relatively unremarkable in its feel – there is a slight built-up ridge on the camera’s right front that provides just enough grip for one-handed holding, and the AF/AE lock and playback buttons that sit in the thumb rest area on the camera back are recessed to avoid inadvertent activation. The flash is manually deployed from the top left of the body and should clear the fingers of most two handed grips.
The fixed 3.0-inch LCD monitor has a 460,000 dot composition and is adjustable for only automatic or “power” brightness levels – the monitor can be difficult to use in bright outdoor conditions. Area of coverage is about 100% and there is no viewfinder.
The LX5’s Leica DC Vario-Summicron zoom lens is built by Panasonic to Leica standards and while it retains the fast f/2 maximum aperture at the 24mm wide angle end of the focal range, it has slowed to f/3.3 at the telephoto end (versus f/2.8 in the LX3). The trade off is the LX5 expands the focal range from 24 to 90mm compared to 24 to 60mm in the LX3
Our first encounter with the LX5 was under bright blue skies when it unsurprisingly did very well, delivering even exposures and maintaining both highlight and shadow detail extremely effectively. For a more prolonged period of testing we were faced with dull conditions back in the UK that had us switching to ‘Expressive’ colour mode and trying to drag something usably enticing from the murk. In any event the camera still managed to deliver bright and clear images and sharp with it – picking out the well-disguised pimples on a model’s made-up face for example – a testament to both lens and sensor working harmoniously.
Neither pixel fringing nor barrel distortion are particularly problematic, and, colour-wise, on default settings images settle on the vivid side of naturalistic. Skin looks altogether healthier, the natural world looks more verdant; what could anyone have to complain about?
And then we come to the LX5‘s low light performance. Up to ISO 1600 images are clean and relatively noise free. Indeed we’d suggest that performance at ISO 1600 is the equivalent of ISO 800 on lesser compacts, including Lumix models lower down the manufacturer’s own range. Stray above this and, perhaps inevitably, we start to run into problems, noise noticeably intruding at ISO 3200 and, as mentioned in the main body of the review, resolution falling off at higher ISO 6400 or 12800 setting. Though results at these options begin to look distinctly painterly despite that, better that slightly abstract look than appear as if viewed through a sandstorm.