Panasonic Lumix LX100 Review.

Experimenting with a New Digital Camera.

What can I do with it?  How comfortable is it to use? How do the photos look?These are some of the questions that I have of any new Camera. The LX100 has been eagerly awaited and only recently released.

Last week Eric Rosenthal, my digital photography guru and new equipment advisor, lent me a brand new Lumix LX100 to play with. Unfortunately, I’m facing a series of tight deadlines, so I really only had a few hours to put the camera through its paces.

The new Panasonic Lumix LX100. Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I played around by comparing the two cameras.
The new Panasonic Lumix LX100. Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I played around by comparing the two cameras.

This wasn’t enough time with the LX100, and I could have spent days working with it! The LX100 is a versatile piece of equipment with lots of features, so I had only begun to play with it when it was time to get back to work.

As regular followers of Tracking the Light are aware, for nearly five years I’d worked with a Panasonic Lumix LX3 (among other cameras). In May I sampled the newer LX7 and in June I bought one. The LX3 was a great camera (I exposed more than 64,000 images with it, before the LX3 expired following a series of mishaps), and the LX7 is a worthy successor. (I’ve never seen an LX5, which was briefly offered as the replacement for the LX3).

The LX100, while kin to the earlier Panasonic Lumix LX cameras, is a different machine. It is not only more advanced, but it is better built, it features a heavier body, a larger lens (more glass) and a more modern sensor, and so in the hand it feels more like a traditional rangefinder camera.

What I liked the most about the LX100:

1) It has a built-in viewfinder, so unlike the earlier LX-series cameras you need not rely on the rear display screen to compose photos. The viewfinder comes on when you put your eye to it. It has a diopter, so you can adjust it to suit your vision (I wear glasses and for me this is an important feature). The viewfinder is especially valuable for composing photos of moving trains in daylight.

2) The LX100 uses traditional rings and dials, which allow you to set the aperture, shutter speed, focus and zoom-lens manually. While you can manipulate these settings by navigating the camera’s menus, for the most part you don’t need to. This makes it work more like a traditional camera. Again, for making railway photos this is important to me because I can make adjustments quickly and intuitively without having to stare at the display screen in bright daylight and/or when your subject is rapidly rolling into view.

3) Like the LX3 and LX7, it has the option of making both RAW and JPG files simultaneously, which in my mind makes this a tool for making publication quality images.

4) It has an outstanding Leica lens which allows for very sharp images, and at f1.7 allows lots of light, which again is important for making railway images, especially in low-light situations, and allows for shallow depth of field, when that is desirable. Also, the lens stops down to f16, which gives it greater versatility.

5) The LX100 uses a sensor that is larger and more advanced than that on the LX7, and this allows for higher quality images while is specifically designed to make more effective use of the camera’s built-in aspect ratios (the dimensions of the image frame). Like the LX7, it has a switch to select the following standard aspect ratios: 1:1 (square), 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. I found the average RAW file was about 16.5 MB. (I’ve discussed this feature in previous posts).

But how do the images look? Below are a few rough comparison images made using the LX100 and my LX7. All images were made hand-held. I did my best to approximate the focal length of the lens, and to use comparable shutter/aperture settings. These images are from the in-camera Jpgs and now the RAW files (which are substantially larger). I did not post-process the images or alter them for color balance, sharpness, contrast, or cropping. But I did scale them for internet presentation.

However, WordPress, which is how Tracking the Light is presented, tends to compress images and I find that they never look as good on this site as they do directly on my computer screen. So take that into consideration.

LX100 view at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. I wanted to see how the camera handled a backlit high contrast scene. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f3.5 1/500th of second. Auto white balance.
LX100 view at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. I wanted to see how the camera handled a backlit high contrast scene. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f4.5 1/500th of a second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts.  Exposed at ISO 80 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f3.5 1/500th of second. Daylight white balance.
LX7 view at CP83 in Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed at ISO 80 (lowest ISO setting on the LX7) at f3.5 1/500th of second. Daylight white balance.
LX100 view of the Steaming Tender, the old Union Station at Palmer, Massachusetts. I wanted to see how the camera handled a backlit high contrast scene. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f3.5 1/800th of second. Auto white balance.
LX100 view of the Steaming Tender, the old Union Station at Palmer, Massachusetts.  Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f4.5  1/1600th of second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view of the Steaming Tender, the old Union Station at Palmer, Massachusetts.  Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f3.5 1/800th of second. Daylight white balance.
LX7 view of the Steaming Tender, the old Union Station at Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed at ISO 80 (lowest ISO setting on the LX7) at f3.5  1/800th of second. Daylight white balance.
LX100 view of the signals at CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts.  Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f3.5 1/400th of second. Auto white balance.
LX100 view of the signals at CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest ISO setting on the LX100) at f4.5  1/800th of second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view of the signals at CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts.  Exposed at ISO 80 (lowest ISO setting on the LX7) at f3.5 1/400th of second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view of the signals at CP83 Palmer, Massachusetts. Exposed at ISO 80 (lowest ISO setting on the LX7) at f3.5 1/400th of second. Auto white balance.
LX100 view of Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP40 number 3000. Not all photos are made on bright days. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest on Lumix LX100). 16:9 aspect ratio.
LX100 view of Buffalo & Pittsburgh GP40 number 3000. Not all photos are made on bright days. Exposed at ISO 200 (lowest on Lumix LX100). f4.0 at 1/125th of a second. Auto white balance. 16:9 aspect ratio.
LX7 comparison view of B&P 3000. Exposed at ISO 80 (Lowest ISO setting on Lumix LX7) at f4 1/50th of a second. Auto white balance. 16:9 aspect ratio.
LX7 comparison view of B&P 3000. Exposed at ISO 80 (Lowest ISO setting on Lumix LX7) at f4 1/50th of a second. Auto white balance. 16:9 aspect ratio. (I didn’t zoom in as tight with the LX7 as I did with the LX100, nominal oversight on my part).
LX100 view of the old Hamden Railroad abutments near Three Rivers, Massachusetts.
LX100 view of the old Hamden Railroad abutments near Three Rivers, Massachusetts. Exposed at ISO 200, f5.6 at 1/200th of a second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view of the same abutments. Exposed at ISO 100, f5.6 at 1/100th of a second. Auto white balance.
LX7 view of the same abutments. Exposed at ISO 100, f5.6 at 1/100th of a second. Auto white balance.

For the most part, I was trying to match the camera’s output as closely as possible for the sake of appearance. I set both cameras at their respective ‘Standard’ color profiles. (Both cameras have several color profiles to select).

Since the LX100’s lowest ISO is 200, and the LX7’s is 80, this presented a bit of a quandry. If I set both cameras at 200, the LX7 images would have a quality disadvantage, while if I set the LX7 at 80, I would need to use a slower shutter speed or a smaller f stop to make an equivalent exposure. (The caveat is that the LX100 is a more versatile camera by virtue of its superior sensor. Simply, it can do more because it has greater range.)

The LX100 has a multitude of features, modes, filters and etc, which I’ll discuss in a follow up post.

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