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Testing / Performance
As with all digital cameras that pass through our office, we tested the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 to see how accurately it could reproduce color. We did this by photographing a standard GretagMacbeth color chart in bright studio lighting and uploading the images into Imatest software. The software program analyzes the images and shows us exactly accurate or inaccurate the colors are. Below is the color chart we snapped pictures of which is modified by the software program to show any differences in color. In each of the 24 square tiles, the vertical rectangle represents the ideal color. The outer portion of the square shows the color as produced by the Panasonic LX2, and the inner square shows the luminance-corrected version of the ideal.
Because it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between all the shapes and colors and such, Imatest outputs the following chart. It distinguishes between the ideal colors (squares) and the Lumix LX2’s colors (circles).
Most of the colors are inaccurate to some extent, with the deep blues and reds straying the farthest from their origins. The LX2 received an 8.38 mean color error. Colors were oversaturated by an average of 16.2 percent. The LX2’s colors are just as saturated as the LX1’s, but the LX2’s are slightly less accurate. The LX1 received an overall color score of 8.23, beating out the LX2’s 7.94.
Still Life Scene
Below is a shot of our intoxicating still life scene, captured with the Panasonic Lumix LX2.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is the second digital camera to have a native widescreen-formatted image sensor. The LX1 had 8 megapixels, and the newer LX2 packs on 10 megapixels. To see how effective the resolution is, we photographed an industry standard resolution chart and uploaded the pictures to Imatest imaging software. We shot the chart at several focal lengths and apertures, but the sharpest image was taken at a focal length of 20.9mm and an aperture of f/4.5.
The software program measured the camera’s ability to create sharp pictures and output the results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). The Panasonic LX2 can read 1957 lw/ph horizontally and 1897 lw/ph vertically. It only does this with a substantial amount of in-camera sharpening though. Horizontally, there was a 23.5 percent oversharpening. Vertically, oversharpening came out to 24.4 percent.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix LX2 performed decently with a 4.78 score but it didn’t perform as well as it should have with its 10-megapixel sensor. The heavy oversharpening combined with the camera’s noise reduction system results is very contrasty images. The pictures will be usable out of the camera, but post-production could be tricky with all the in-camera sharpening.
Noise – Auto ISO*(1.56)*
Using bright studio lighting, we photographed the resolution chart using the automatic ISO setting. Ideally, the camera would meter the scene properly and automatically select the lowest ISO setting possible. The Panasonic Lumix LX2, however, fumbled and produced about as much noise as would be found at ISO 500. That amount of noise just happened to be more than usual anyway, so the LX2 didn’t score well here with its 1.56 auto ISO noise score.
Noise – Manual ISO*(9.67)*
The LX2 has made some significant improvements upon its predecessor in this area. The LX1 had manual ISO options up to 400, but the LX2 extends its range from 100-1600. Below is a chart showing the amount of noise present at each ISO setting. The settings are on the horizontal axis and the noise is on the vertical axis.
The LX2 makes some huge strides when compared to previous Panasonics. The LX1 had a horrible 2.51 overall score and produced almost the same amount of noise at ISO 400 that the LX2 produces at ISO 1600, although there appears to be much stronger noise reduction imposed on the LX2. For its good snapshot performance, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 received a 9.67 manual ISO noise score.
Low Light* (6.0)*
Most of our testing is done in bright lighting, but we wanted to see how the camera would perform in more challenging low light situations. For users who often shoot at night or indoors and prefer to use ambient light, we testing the LX2's ability to meet the challenge by photographing the color chart at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux to see just how far the LX2 can go before images become unusable.
We used a tripod and the highest ISO setting, 1600, for these pictures. We found that images were incredibly noisy, and the image quality went out the window. The illumination, however, remained fairly consistent and certainly better than the LX1. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is capable in low light, especially with its vast shutter speed range that slows down to 60 seconds; however, users will get much higher image quality when a lower ISO speed is used with longer shutter speeds than relying on the expansive sensitivity range alone. While its optical image stabilization system will help steady bumps during some 1/15th second exposures, for longer shots, a tripod will be necessary.
To test how well the camera handles noise on long exposures, we adjusted the shutter speed and set the ISO to 400. We tested the noise level from 1-60 seconds, shown below in the chart. The horizontal axis represents the exposure time and the vertical axis represents the noise level.
There is a steady increase in noise as the shutter remains open, but it isn’t nearly as bad as some other digital cameras. Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 performed well in low light with its manual shutter speeds extended and its ISO set to 400. With its optical image stabilization system and ISO 800 and 1600 settings, users will have a lot of flexibility, but expect a lot of noise in the resulting images.
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to First Shot (7.4)
*The Panasonic Lumix LX2 took 2.6 seconds to start up and take its first shot. Many compact cameras take about that long, but it's a long time to wait, if a candid shot presents itself. Users who hope to catch spontaneous moments will need to turn the camera on, and make sure it doesn't shut itself off, whenever they think a good shot might come up.
*Shot to Shot Time (9.61)
*The Lumix LX2 has three burst modes: High, Low and Unlimited. In High mode, the LX2 took 3.3 shots per second for 3 shots, then needed 4 seconds to recover for the next shot. That's a quick rate, but being able to shoot only 3 frames at a time is limiting. The LX2 is not the camera for paparazzi. Its Low mode is slower, clocking in at 1.2 frames per second, but doesn't offer a longer burst. It still needs a 4-second breather between 3-shot bursts. Unlimited, true to the name, just keeps on shooting. For the first 20 shots, it snapped 1 frame per second. From shot 21 on, it slowed down to 0.8 frames per second.
Shutter to Shot Time (7.72)*
*The most critical timing statistic is shutter to shot time – the lag between when the user presses the button and when the shot goes off. A short lag is vital for action shots. The Panasonic Lumix LX2 doesn't perform well on this test, with a delay of 0.63 seconds. Again, there are plenty of compact cameras as slow as the LX2, but a delay of over half a second can be frustrating even when shooting posed pictures – the subjects see the photographer press the button, and for a moment, think the camera is broken.
The Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4x optical zoom lens on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 extends from the front plane of the camera. The lens is positioned slightly right of center when facing the camera and the housing does not retract when the camera is turned off. The simple and functional design represents a clean and crisp utilitarianism that is reflected throughout this camera. The barrel of the lens does extend and retract from the housing, but the lack of an automatic lens cover does mean that users will need to keep tabs on the included plastic lens cover. Panasonic even adds striations along the left side of the barrel to simulate the grips used for manual focus and zoom adjustment when shooting with 35mm cameras. The grips have no function today since all the controls on the camera are activated with buttons and will not require extensive adjustment or control through this interface. Speaking of these exterior controls, the user will notice that aspect ratio adjustments are made via a sliding switch located on the top of the lens barrel. This switch snaps smartly between settings, is easy to find, and allows for quick changes in aspect ratio.
When facing the camera, the focusing control is located on the right side of the lens barrel. This control, like the aspect ratio adjustment control, uses a sliding switch to move between auto focus, macro, and manual focus. The control for focus is a bit more awkward to manipulate and during adjustments there was a tendency to rotate or shift the camera to better maneuver the switch. The self-timer indicator and AF assist lamp are positioned above and to the left of the lens in a location that won’t be covered accidentally by wandering fingers.
The LCD monitor is an impressive 2.8 inches when measured diagonally and has approximately 210,000 pixels. This is an improvement over the 2.5-inch screen found on the LX1 that wasn’t optimized for 16:9 viewing. The LCD screen is raised 1/8 of an inch from the body of the camera and has a glossy black frame. While impressive in size, the LCD screen also showed any and all fingerprints and smudges. It necessitated constant cleaning. All controls on the back of the camera are to the right of the LCD and will be maneuvered primarily, if not entirely, with the thumb of the right hand. The auto focus and auto exposure lock control is located next to the upper right corner of the LCD. Beneath this control is the petite, floating joystick, which controls manual focus. Beneath the joystick control is a small status light which sits slightly above and to the left of the four-way navigation control with secondary and sometimes tertiary purposes.
The controls for this interface are neatly separated and provide enough room to move quickly and accurately between cardinal directions. This interface is great for shooting when time is of the essence. The up arrow on the four-way controller enables access to on-screen control of auto bracket, flash exposure, and exposure depending on if the LX2 is in a priority or manual shooting mode. When shooting in auto mode, the up arrow controls the backlight compensation. The right arrow on this four-way interface also controls the flash settings when the camera is in shooting mode. The problem with this setup is that the flash must be manually opened prior to being able to alter these controls. If the flash is closed, the flash settings remain inaccessible from this control. The down arrow instantly provides access to the previously captured image in a temporary review mode that only allows access to playback zoom, delete and exit functions. A fuller review mode replete with menus can be found by turning the mode dial located on the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. The self-timer settings of 2 seconds and 10 seconds are controlled by pressing the right arrow of the four-way controller. At the center of the four-way control is the set/menu button that enables the user to enter the camera’s menu structure when in both playback and shooting modes and make selections.
Beneath the four-way control is the display button that can be used to alter the amount of information shown on the LCD screen of the camera. This information includes a useful live histogram and manual control settings. The great part about having such a large LCD is that even with all display options on the screen, it doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the graphic overlays. To the right of the display button is the control for burst mode when in shooting mode and the delete button when in playback mode.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 has no features on the rounded left side of the camera body. Two small screws can be noted near the top of the camera.
A cover for an optional DC-IN and included USB connection is located centrally on the right side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. The cover snaps open from a tab positioned on the edge between the right side and the back of the camera. The hinge does seem to be well built and should hold up over time. A clasp or locking mechanism would be nice on this cover since it occasionally flipped open during shooting. An eyelet for the wrist strap is located directly above this port cover and stands out from the body of the camera by about 1/4 of an inch.
The manually opened pop-up flash is located on the left side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2’s top face. The flash can get in the way of the left hand, and the need to manually open this feature is a hassle at times. Behind the flash is a switch that opens the mechanism. Once done shooting, users must press the flash back into the body of the camera. To the right of the flash and positioned centrally above the barrel of the LX2 is both the speaker and the monaural microphone used to capture and playback audio when shooting video footage. The microphone is positioned so that it would be nearly impossible to accidentally cover it with a finger. The raised and large mode dial is located directly beside the microphone and is easy to engage when needing to move between shooting and playback modes quickly and efficiently. Vertical striations are located on the side of this twisting control in order to provide a better grip for concise control. The shutter button is positioned to the right of the mode dial and is surrounded by a zoom control ring that can be adjusted using the pointer finger of the right hand during shooting. The shutter button is generous in size and reacted well to both full and partial engagement. The zoom adjustment ring wasn’t the most nuanced or subtle when making adjustments to zoom length, but the size of the control did allow for easy maneuvering. The optical image stabilization button is located directly beside the shutter button and will allow users to toggle between two image stabilization modes. Directly behind the image stabilization button is the on/off switch for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2.
Located on the bottom of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2, off towards the left side of the camera body is a metal tripod mount. On the right side of the camera body is a port cover that slides towards the right to reveal the lithium ion battery and SD/SDHC memory card slot. This cover is positioned in a location that will allow access even when mounted to a tripod, although it may just be easier in the long run to remove and realign if a battery or memory card replacement is required mid-shoot.
The back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 lacks a viewfinder with most of the face being consumed by the 2.8-inch, 16:9 optimized LCD screen. This could be a problem when running low on battery power and wanting to conserve power by turning off the energy-draining LCD screen. The major drawback of most viewfinders found on point-and-shoot cameras is the horrific frame inaccuracy.
At 2.8 inches and 210,000 pixels, the LCD screen for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 certainly isn’t small but there are some definite shortcomings. When moving the camera between scenes with highly contrasting content, the LCD screen flickers several times before settling down. This flickering will also happen every time the shutter is partially depressed or released prior to image capture. The screen will only display at the full resolution and size when shooting in 16:9; in 3:2 and 4:3, the screen overlays black bars on the left and right sides to crop the image to the correct aspect ratio. Images were a bit grainy when viewed through this screen, but the colors were bright. For general monitoring, the grain issues should be negligible, although the screen displayed a tendency towards solarization. Luckily, the manual focus mode uses a zoom-display focus system so that photographers won’t have to guess if their subject is in focus - a great decision with this LCD. The LCD also has a live histogram feature as well as a highlight display system for monitoring blown-out areas in review mode. The LCD can be further customized by the Power LCD function for capturing images outside and in harsh lighting. Additionally, a High Angle mode is included for situations when capturing images while holding the camera aloft. These two settings are located by pressing the Display/LCD button on the back of the LX2.
Models like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 that have at least 230,000 pixels of resolution seem to have that extra bit of clarity that this model struggles with.
The pop-up flash on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is located on the top of the camera body and is positioned right of the lens center when facing the camera. The pop-up flash has to be manually opened by sliding the switch that sits directly behind the flash. The horizontal flash will snap open in less than a second. The off-center position did tend to cast harsh shadows from right to left across the subject. The flash range is a reported 1.97 - 13.5 feet, but the farther this flash is from the subject the better. At three feet, the flash washed out subjects' faces when shooting in lower light situations. The results were anything but flattering and would indicate that this camera isn’t meant for the dance floor.
The flash can be controlled with preset modes of Auto, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Forced On (Forced On/Red-eye Reduction), Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction and Forced Off. These settings vary depending on the shooting mode and are of course not available when the flash is closed or if the camera is in motion capture mode. The flash settings can be opened by pressing the right arrow on the four-way control, an action that will open a graphic overlay in the upper left corner of the LCD screen. Further flash adjustments can be made by pressing the up arrow and moving to the Flash EV adjustment. This will provide users with a live view to make EV adjustments between +/- 2 EV in 1/3-step increments.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 uses the same Leica branded DC Vario-Elmarit 4x optical zoom lens that is on the LX1. Unfortunately, when the LX1 was first introduced, the 4x lens stood out among the competition; now the market has matured to where consumers expect entry level point-and-shoots to carry a minimum of a 3.6x or 4x zoom range.
The lens on the LX2 has a focal length of 6.3 to 25.2mm that translates into a 28 to 112mm zoom in the formerly standard 35mm format. The 28mm wide-angle lens will certainly provide more information than your standard compact camera's lens. The 4x lens is not compatible with conversion lenses. The LX2's lens is built with 9 elements in 8 groups with 3 aspherical elements.
To help combat camera shake, Panasonic included its Mega Optical Image Stabilization system which users are able to turn off, run continuously in Mode 1, or activate only when the shutter release button is pushed in Mode 2. The latter setting will help conserve battery life. When switched on, the image stabilization showed a cleaner and crisper image even when switching up to the Mode 2 setting. This feature really makes a compelling argument for the LX2 (and for Panasonic's marketing department, helps to justify the steep price tag).
The lens does not have an automatic cover and, frustratingly, there is no way for the user to attach the removable cover to a wrist strap or other strap on the camera body. The lack of an eyelet or other tethering feature could easily lead to the loss of this essential protective device.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(7.5)*
The design of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is nearly identical to that of its predecessor although some minimal adjustments have been made to the control interface. The LX2’s design harkens back to older Leica camera bodies with clean lines, unfettered interactivity, and a simple utilitarian and mostly functional design. While these are great overall attributes for a clear visual aesthetic, its functionality is not quite as solid. The finger grip on the front of the camera is pared down when compared to the fuller and theoretically "ergonomic" offerings of other compact cameras. This grip may work for some photographers, but users with larger hands may render this feature moot. The grip was mostly overlooked in favor of grasping the top and bottom of the camera frame with the right hand.
Size / Portability*(7.0)*
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 isn’t a petite pocket-sized model and users seeking something that can be easily tucked into a back pocket will probably want to look elsewhere. That said, it isn’t as heavy as the 4 1/8th inch wide, 2 1/4 inch high and 1-inch thick body would imply and photographers will be pleasantly surprised when the 6.5 oz body is hefted. It fit comfortably in a coat pocket and will definitely slip into a fanny-pack without too much strain. The major concern about this camera is definitely the non-tethered lens cap that could be easily jarred loose despite its locking mechanism.
The handling on this camera is minimal in terms of design consideration and users shooting one-handed will find it quite challenging to control. The lack of gripping protrusions will make for extremely shaky footage when attempting to shoot video with a single hand, despite Panasonic’s effective image stabilization system. A protruding small grip with texture is located on the front face of the camera near the right edge of the LX2.
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size ***(5.75)*
The external control interface is nearly identical on both the LX1 and LX2. On the LX2, the controls located on the back of the camera are merely squeezed into a smaller space in order to provide for the increased size in LCD screen. The four-way controls are nicely designed and enable quick and confident movement within menu structures and manual settings. The display, AF/AE lock and delete/burst mode buttons are also well sized and labeled with fairly clear icons or textual descriptions. The only real potential problem is the unlabeled and at times, finicky joystick control located directly above the four-way control on the back face of the camera. It’s undersized and could be troublesome for some users with larger hands when trying to make adjustments to manual control settings. However, the control is not used to move through menus, so straight point-and-shoot users won’t have to fiddle with it.
Like the LX1, the LX2 also suffers from the same setback when it comes to its zoom adjustment. The zoom adjustment ring that sits around the shutter button on the top of the camera doesn’t have the sensitivity necessary to make minor adjustments. This is especially problematic when taking the relatively small 4x optical zoom range into consideration.
The menus for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 are easy to navigate and allow for speedy maneuvering despite their extensive nature. The menu structure is an opaque interface with occasional live views for settings like white balance. All menus are navigated through the four-way control interface and settings can be altered and then approved by pressing the menu/set button at the center of the aforementioned four-way control.
The record menu will vary in list offerings and size depending on which mode is being employed by users. For example, the menu displayed below is only available when shooting in one of the more manual control modes. If switched into auto or scene mode, the offerings become dramatically fewer and pertain only to picture size, quality and clock set.
The setup menu is available in any of the camera modes and engages the same multipage display used in record and playback modes. It would be nice if users could flip through pages without having to scroll through each sub-menu.
The playback menu is only available when the camera is in full playback mode and through making the proper adjustment to the mode dial located on the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. Access to this menu will not be possible when using the quick review feature found by pressing the down arrow during shooting.
Ease of Use*(6.5)*
The simple and logical menu structure is a breeze to move through and adjustments can be made without hassle. The menu structures are lengthy (up to five pages in length) and users will find that it is necessary to scroll over each sub-menu to move from page to page. This could be easily overcome by providing users a method for moving between pages without needing to actually enter the menu structure. Most controls found externally on the camera are well labeled and placed with consideration for quick access. The control that is a problem, which unfortunately can't be overlooked, is also responsible for making adjustments to the exposure compensation shortcut, shutter, aperture and manual focus settings. This joystick is unlabeled and undersized, and could be a hassle for some to use. Users will luckily find relief in the inclusion of a shortcut access to exposure compensation, flash settings, image stabilization, burst modes, quick review and self timer. Overall, Panasonic has the right idea with the LX2 but it has the same problems as the LX1 with regard to ease of use. It’s a bit frustrating to have nothing change in this new model in this department. With minimal adjustments, Panasonic could really have made a great compact camera that outdoes anything else on the market in terms of simplicity.
When switched into the automatic mode, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 immediately becomes a straightforward point-and-shoot camera that won’t confuse any user, regardless of experience. The menu structure will only contain image size, quality and clock setting options. Users can open the flash but will not be able to customize the flash settings further. The zoom is of course still controllable and users will find that when pressed twice inward, the joystick will present a shortcut screen for image size and quality settings fall over the live view. Focus can be adjusted manually in this mode and the exposure and white balance results were surprisingly consistent when shooting in both interior and exterior situations, although it leaned toward underexposure when shooting in darker interiors. Image stabilization is also still accessible when shooting in this mode.
**Movie Mode ***(7.75)*
At first glance the movie mode for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 seemed to have made drastic improvements to help Panasonic market this camera as an image-maker of both still and video for the wide-screen display. And in terms of pure specs, that could be seen as true. After all, the LX2 does have a maximum video mode resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This is certainly a fair improvement from the LX1’s maximum resolution of 848 x 480, but the problem lies in the frame rate. For the LX1, the frame rates at 848 x 480 are 10 and 30 fps (selectable). For the LX2’s maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, Panasonic hands consumers an underwhelming 15 fps frame rate. Personally, the prospect of watching higher resolution video in a stuttering format is less desirable than watching a lower resolution clip at a fluid frame rate. Additionally, a standard VGA 640 x 480 size can also be shot at 10 or 30 fps.
The LX2's resolution options can only be engaged if the user has inserted a memory card. If recording to built-in memory, the user will have to rely on QVGA 320 x 240 with frame rates of either 30 or 10 seconds. Considering that 13 MB of internal memory can barely capture two full resolution images and the movie mode is essentially dysfunctional without a memory card, it would definitely be a wise purchase to get an SD/MMC card. The camera also comes with a monaural microphone and a speaker playback unit that can be found to the left of the mode dial on the top of the camera body. It’s a bit awkward in placement and users may find that the audio field being recorded is more above the camera than in front of it. Just make sure you aren’t breathing heavily and it shouldn’t be a huge problem since, after all, the microphone isn’t exactly a parabolic.
The LX2's movie mode is a slight upgrade over the LX1's and offers a bit more than its competition; however, with a native 16:9 chip and high res video potential, Panasonic had a chance to hit a home run in this department and bunted instead.
**Drive / Burst Mode ***(7.75)
*The burst modes for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 can be accessed by pressing the burst mode button located in the bottom right corner on the back of the camera. This small button is tucked out of the way but is still easily accessible when shooting quickly. The burst mode displays a graphic overlay in the upper left corner of the LCD with a live view provided underneath. The burst mode options for this camera are high speed, low speed and unlimited. At full image quality, the high setting will result in capturing 3 pictures per second while the low setting will nab you 2 pictures per second. In the unlimited mode, the advertised rate drops to below 2 frames per second and can become even slower as the memory card reaches capacity. Additionally, users should be aware that ISO settings of 400, 800 and 1600 will also turn this burst mode into a sloth-like apparition. Burst mode is not available when shooting RAW images.
**Playback Mode ***(7.5)*
The LX2's playback mode continues the simplicity and logical flow found in shooting modes. The playback mode allows users to view images individually, multi-image 9-up, multi-image 25-up, or as a calendar view. All of these viewing options can be scrolled through via the zoom control located on the top of the camera surrounding the shutter button. While pressing the zoom to the left will engage a multi-image interface, pressing the zoom to the right will initiate playback zoom. In playback mode, the user can move between 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x zoom levels to better view image details after shooting.
In-camera editing of images can be accomplished with menu options that include rotate, audio dub, resize, trim and aspect conversion. Photographers can also choose print order and number while in the playback mode through the DPOF Print sub-menu. Images can be deleted during playback by pressing the delete button that doubles as the burst mode control when in shooting mode. Users can choose to delete single images, multiple images or all images through this control. Multidelete is accomplished by scanning thumbnails via the right and left arrows on the four-way control and selecting images for deletion by pressing the down arrow. Once finished, the user simply presses the delete button one more time, simple and easy, just how we like it.
**Custom Image Presets ***(7.75)*
The scene modes on this Panasonic Lumix camera can be found by turning the mode dial to the Scene position. This action will automatically open a simple text/icon-based menu structure with five pages of options that include a separate screen with full textual descriptions for uncertain users. Scene mode options for this model include Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Self Portrait, Food, Party, Candle Light, Fireworks, Starry Sky, Beach, Aerial Photo, Snow, High Sensitivity, Baby 1 and Baby 2. The inclusion of the in-camera full text descriptions is a great choice on the part of Panasonic and users should feel empowered by this design that should provide more than enough insight into each preset modes particularities. For example, the Beach mode description states that it is meant "for taking pictures on a beach,' this prevents underexposure of the subject under strong sunlight. A bit obvious perhaps, but when you’ve handed the camera over to Aunt Mildred and Uncle Mort, you’ll want them to be shooting properly. Of note is the High Sensitivity mode that uses an ISO 3200 setting and operates only at reduced resolution. The optical and digital zoom controls freeze in this mode, so there isn't much flexibility. Still, it allows for easy shots in low light.
Manual Control Options
For those who value manual control, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 comes with a plethora of options without needing to worry about a complicated interface or confusing graphics. Some controls like EV compensation are accessible through external controls, while others, such as metering and ISO, can be found within the recording menu structure. ISO has a rather massive range up to IS0 1600 at full resolution and ISO 3200 at a reduced resolution. White balance has a number of presets and will also allow for two manual settings to be established at any point during the shooting process. Live displays are provided for white balance, white balance compensation and exposure. It would have been helpful if Panasonic had included a live view display for the ISO settings so that users wouldn’t need to exit and re-enter the menu structure over and over while establishing this control parameter, but many of the other controls do feature a live view. Users looking for a higher level of shooting information will appreciate the inclusion of a live histogram display to properly adjust exposure. The LX2 has a good variety of manual controls, but they aren't the easiest to adjust.
*Auto Focus (6.0)
*Auto focus on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is effective from 50 cm normally and comes with the option to shoot in macro mode from as close as 5 cm. Users can choose between shooting in standard or continuous AF by making adjustments to the Cont. AF sub-menu in the recording menu. The AF mode settings will enable photographers to select between shooting in a nine-area focal mode, three-area focal mode (high speed), one-area (high speed) and one area. Even when using one of the "high speed" AF options, the results were anything but quick. Focusing time in decent lighting seemed to take about half a second to lock on average but often took a lot longer in lower light conditions. Focus in general was plagued by slow performance, a complaint also brought up in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 review. The results were consistently sharp and properly focused, but the camera was also consistently slow.
Manual Focus (2.5)
Manual focus is a great way to test the manual shooting waters without getting in over your head as a beginner. Manual focus can be adjusted when shooting in program AE, shutter, aperture, manual, movie and scene modes. Panasonic has placed the manual focus selection control on the left side of the lens housing. The control interface is identical to the one used to switch between aspect ratios. This sliding switch enables the user to move between auto focus, macro and manual focus without entering into a menu structure. This is all good and is a really nice way of moving between control settings. The problems with manual focus come when attempting to make adjustments to focusing depth. To make adjustments, photographers must manipulate the small joystick found to the right of the LCD screen on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. The joystick fails as a control interface for manipulating focus; even when manipulated "correctly" the focus still takes forever to move from one end of the focal range to the other. Even the most patient subject is sure to grow antsy. A vertical graphical display from infinity to 0.17 feet will appear on the left side of the LCD screen when the joystick is operated.
Photographing squirrels or other fauna is going to be a nearly impossible venture with manual focus. That is unless you kill, mount, and stuff them first.
The metering control can be found by entering the recording menu when the camera is set to program AE, aperture, shutter or manual modes. The metering sub-menu has three parameters: multiple, center-weighted and spot. Consumers will find that these three settings are found on most compact cameras currently on the market.
Manual adjustment of exposure levels can be accomplished in program AE, aperture and shutter priority, movie and scene modes. The exposure compensation scale is accessed by pressing the up arrow on the four-way control located on the back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. This will allow users to quickly bias the exposure without having to enter the menu structure. When the up arrow is pressed in any of the shooting modes, a horizontal scale will appear as an overlay on top of a live view display. The live display is definitely helpful in making sure that the appropriate level is attained during the initial adjustment period. The scale enables settings from +/- 2 EV to be set in 1/3-step increments. Pressing the left or right arrows of the four-way control makes adjustments to this setting and the simple and easy interface should make this manual control approachable for even the most tentative photographer.
The program AE mode will allow users to control the shutter and aperture settings to properly adjust for exposure prior to shooting. When the shutter is pressed partially, the LCD screen will display a horizontal exposure scale along the bottom of the LCD screen that shows the current exposure position of the camera. This is a helpful little addition that will make users transitioning into fuller manual controls feel more comfortable and confident in their shooting.
White balance can be manually set and has five presets. An auto mode and a more advanced white balance adjustment setting is located within the recording menu structure. These settings are accessible in program AE, aperture and shutter priority, manual, movie and scene modes and are easy to distinguish through simple icons. A live view appears when the white balance sub-menu is entered and users will be able to visually identify what hue changes occur when different adjustments are made. White balance options for the Panasonic LX2 are Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, Flash, White set 1, White set 2, and White set. There are also two custom white balance settings that can be saved, which is a nice touch.
The white balance adjustment feature displays a square grid with red tones on one end and blue tones on the other end over a live view. A small crosshair icon is moved through the chart by pressing the left and right arrows on the four-way navigation control. There are nine steps of red and nine steps of blue available in addition to the default "0" setting. With these custom control options provided, the results should be preferable to relying on the less precise preset options.
Sensitivity is an area that Panasonic dramatically improved from the preceding model. The new LX2 outdoes the LX1 with both an expanded ISO range and a new Intelligent ISO system. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 offers an ISO range of up to 1600 at full resolution with an ISO setting of 3200 available at a reduced resolution of 8 MP. Also, the inclusion of an Intelligent ISO feature should help appease point-and-shooters. The feature is designed to automatically make adjustments to ISO and shutter speed settings for the best shoot in a given situation.
Since noise has long plagued Panasonic's Lumix line, refer to the Noise section of the review to see how the camera performance throughout its expansive range.
Manual control over the electronic and mechanical shutter is possible when shooting with this camera and can be adjusted in both shutter priority and manual exposure modes. The shutter speed range for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is 60 seconds to 1/2000th of a second, which will definitely provide slow enough speeds for shooting in low or no light situations. The 1/2000th setting at the fast end will provide appropriate results for bright sunny days. Shutter speed in the Starry Sky preset shooting mode will allow for settings of 15, 30 and 60 seconds to be selected by the user. In auto mode, users will find that the shutter speed range will reduce to 1/4 to 1/2000th of a second which is hardly going to combat low lighting. In Program AE mode, the shutter speed will be truncated to a range of 1 second to 1/2000th of a second while aperture and shutter priority modes will only allow for a range of 8 seconds to 1/2000th of a second.
The problem with manual shutter adjustment is the same problem found when altering focus manually; if the user finds the joystick uncomfortable, it will be a constant source of frustration.
The aperture can be manually controlled in aperture priority and manual modes. The aperture levels can be accessed for alteration by pressing the joystick. Once this is accomplished, the user can scroll through the aperture range by pressing the joystick up and down. When in the manual exposure mode, the user can adjust both shutter and aperture settings simultaneously. The aperture range for this camera will enable users to make adjustments from f/2.8 to f/8.0 at the widest focal length. At its most telephoto, the lens closes to a maximum aperture of f/4.9. It would be nice if the aperture value was slightly larger at the telephoto end, helping minimize the user's reliance on the higher sensitivity settings.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(8.0)*
With a 1/1.65 inch 10.2 MP CCD, the LX2 is unique in that it is able to natively capture 16:9 images. Users will find that when switched to 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratios, the megapixel count is reduced to 8 MP. When shooting with the 16:9 aspect ratio selected, the user will be able to choose between resolutions of 4224 x 2376, 3840 x 2160, 3072 x 1728, and 1920 x 1080. In 3:2 the resolution options change to 3248 x 2160, 2560 x 1712 and 2048 x 1360. And finally with the 4:3 aspect ratio the options become 3168 x 2376, 2880 x 2160, 2304 x 1728, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 1280 x 960. Users will find that they can choose between JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard and RAW quality settings. Readers may remember a TIFF file format with the LX1 and it’s true, Panasonic has gone ahead and removed this option from the new LX2. Fortunately, with RAW and multple JPEG options still available, users shouldn't miss the unnecessarily large format.
Another area where the LX2 improves over its predecessor is video capture. When shooting in movie mode, the image size can now be set to 1280 x 720, 848 x 480 in 16:9 and 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 in 4:3. The 16:9 aspect ratio is only possible when a memory card is being used and users will find that the highest resolution can only capture at a stuttering 15 fps rate. The 848 x 480 resolution will allow for frame rates of 30 or 10 to be engaged. If 4:3 is selected the user will be able to choose between 30 fps VGA, 10 fps VGA, 30 fps QVGA or 10 fps QVGA. The QVGA settings will be the only option provided if shooting without a memory card. If motion capture is important, invest in some memory cards. With the terrible frame rate found at highest resolution, it would be advisable to choose either the 848 x 480 16:9 option or the 640 x 480 4:3 option at a smoother and more natural 30 fps.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(8.0)*
The picture effects options for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 are located within the recording menu. Three sub-menus cover color effects, picture adjustment and flip animation. The color effect options are off, cool, warm, black/white and sepia while the picture adjustment settings allow the user to manipulate contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction. It is at times advisable to drop noise reduction to the minimum setting because anything higher will result in diminished sharpness. There is no live image view for the picture adjustment options and users will have to guess which setting is appropriate to their image content.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 comes with two pieces of software for post-capture editing as well as the SilkyPix 2 RAW utility conversion application. The PhotoImpression 5 editing suite found with the LX1 reappears with the LX2. Also found with the LX2 is the third piece of software: the entertaining and rather functional PanoramaMaker application. Missing from this year's software is the rudimentary Lumix Simple Viewer and ArcSoft PhotoBase 4 editing suite. The purpose of the Simple Viewer was merely to view and organize, and won't be missed much.
PanoramaMaker employs a simple ArcSoft-designed interface that allows users to easily select between horizontal, vertical, 360 degrees or tile composition formats of multiple images. This software allows the user to first select composition format followed by which images are to be included within a specific collage. Once these processes are complete the software automatically compiles these images into a panoramic view. The ArcSoft panorama software is certainly one of the easiest interfaces for this type of work and the results were surprisingly consistent. This is certainly a great idea for users looking to easily push the boundaries of their photo-taking and display methodologies.
The PhotoImpression 5 software allows for importation of images from PC, scanner, camera, video, removable media or ArcSoft Album. This is a basic editing program that primarily works with a series of preset effects that can include 3D Grid, Crayon, Stained Glass, Pastel, frames for images, additional clip-art, paint and text. The effects are a bit cheesy and, while sort of amusing for a moment or two, they do remain firmly planted in the "effects" rather than editing realm of post-production image work. More serious image control can be achieved either in the SilkyPix 2 software or with a third party editing suite like PhotoShop.
*Jacks, ports, plugs (6.0)
*The Lumix LX2 has minimal port, plug and jack options available. The two jacks are located under a sturdily designed port cover found on the right side of the camera body. This cover flips open via a tab on its back edge and reveals both the Digital AV out and DC IN jacks. The Digital AV can either connect to included RCA cables or USB depending on if viewing on a television or transferring to computer or printer. On the bottom of the camera body, on the right side, is another cover that slides out from the center to reveal the lithium-ion battery slot and SD/MMC memory cards.
*Direct Print Options (6.0)
*Direct printing is available when the camera is entered into playback mode. The user is able to select between printing single or multiple images by entering the playback menu and selecting the DPOF Print sub-menu. Even faster direct printing is possible by turning the mode dial to the Direct Print icon and connecting the camera to a PictBridge compliant printer. This is certainly a simple process and should enable even the most techno-phobic user to be able to print competently from home or office. The multiple image option will display a thumbnail view that allows the user to select not only which images are printed but also how many prints of each image are wanted.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is inserted into a slot beneath a cover on the bottom of the camera body. This battery has an advertised 300-shot capacity per charge, but if the camera is left on between shots the user should expect the 2.8-inch LCD to drain life even faster. The camera comes with a wall mount charger for the rechargeable battery.
*Underneath the same cover used to protect the battery, the user will find a small memory card slot for SD/MMC memory cards. The camera does come with internal memory but at a mere 13 MB of included storage space it was only possible to capture a couple of images at full resolution before its capacity was reached. Users who want to record movies frequently will want to purchase a memory card; without it, only the smallest 320 x 240-pixel video size is available.
Auto Bracket – The auto bracket feature is accessed by pressing the up arrow when shooting in program AE, aperture, shutter, manual AE or scene modes. The auto bracket display will allow users to bracket images at +/- 1/3 EV, +/- 2/3 EV or +/- 1 EV.
Backlight Compensation – The Backlight Compensation setting can be initiated when shooting in auto mode in order to compensate for the uneven exposure that often occurs when photographic subjects are lit strongly from the back. This shooting situation will cast the subject into dark shadow while exposing for the strong source light. Backlight compensation can be turned on by pressing the up arrow on the four-way control and holding down momentarily.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is certainly a better deal than the previously released LX1, which debuted at a pricey $599. The LX2 boasts a new faster processor, 10.2 MP CCD, better resolutions in movie and still modes, a larger 16:9 optimized 2.8-inch LCD display, the same menus and many of the same control options. Add all these improvements and the new LX2 outdoes its predecessor in every way. While the hefty price tag is still excessive, it is really the only option for a native 16:9 chip at the moment. Expect the $499 price tag of the LX2 to drop with a little time. Considering the improvements made, this camera makes a far better option than the LX1, although I can't say its image quality justifies the $500 price.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 - The T30 is part of Sony’s ultra-compact camera line that pairs a clean and refined style with a large megapixel count. In the case of the DSC-T30, 7.2 megapixels is paired with a large ISO range, a non-telescoping, optically stabilized 3x zoom lens, and an even larger 3-inch LCD screen which was impressive. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T30 also has a 16:9-formatted image size, but no widescreen movie capability. The major difference between a camera like this and the DMC-LX2 is the manual control options provided for users. The T30 has a truncated shutter speed and white balance menus, a terrible quasi-manual focus selector and a fully automatic aperture. This camera is inevitably meant to impress friends and family visually while providing an easy interface for quick point-and-shoot style shooting. With these shortcomings in mind, it should be remembered that on a night out partying this camera will easily slip into a pocket, a feat the DMC-LX2 cannot achieve quite as easily.
Olympus Stylus 1000 - The Olympus Stylus 1000 is a 10-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom and an unfortunate digital rather than optical image stabilization system. This camera does boast an all-weather housing which is great when shooting in a light rain and more importantly, when getting sweaty in a club at the end of a long night. The Stylus 1000 also features Olympus’ unique Bright Capture Technology that combats low light situations prior to image capture rather than as a post-production process. Manual controls with the Stylus 1000 unfortunately have a limited palette of options with users lacking manual focus, minimal white balance control and a smaller shutter range with only a 4 second slow shutter available in its preset night mode. Users will have 28.5 MB of internal memory at their disposal in addition to movie mode, 24 preset shooting modes, in-camera playback editing and a smaller 2.5-inch LCD with a superior resolution level for better clarity in shooting and review.
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS - With the PowerShot SD800 IS, the photographer will be shooting with a wide angle 28 to 105mm Canon lens, Digic III Image Processor with face detection technology, along with an optical image stabilization system. This 7.1-megapixel digital camera has a marginally smaller 3.8x optical zoom range, a smaller 2.5 inch LCD with a resolution of 207,000 pixels, an expansive ISO range to 1600 and manual control over metering, exposure, white balance and flash. This camera lacks the RAW file format found on the LX2. The Canon SD800 doesn't have a native widescreen CCD and can't record 16:9-formatted movies, but does have a still image size option available for the wide ratio. This camera is smaller and lighter in weight, so if portability is an issue this may be a strong alternate candidate. The SD800 IS has an MSRP of $399 making it slightly less expensive than the LX2.
Pentax Optio A20 - The Pentax Optio A20 is a compact 10-megapixel digital camera that was released at the end of August 2006 with an initial retail price of $350. This camera has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD but with a 230K resolution users should find that they actually have more image information than when shooting with the slightly larger but lower resolution screen on the LX2. Manually speaking, the camera does come with metering, shutter priority, EV compensation, an ISO range up to ISO 800, a smaller white balance range, flash control and a backlight compensation feature – but misses out on typical manual controls over shutter speed and aperture. If price is more of a concern than a 'true' 16:9 aspect ratio, the Pentax Optio A20 is certainly a more economic alternative.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters *- Simple menu structures, an easily attained auto mode and a wealth of preset shooting modes make this camera an interesting choice for buyers seeking a camera with image stabilization and a unique feature set. How many point-and-shooters are still willing to shell out $500 for a snapshot camera? We'll see.
*Budget Consumers *- With an MSRP of $499 and some problems with general image quality, the LX2 still needs some fine tuning and a serious, serious price-reduction before the budget market will take notice. Similar manual controls, CCD sizes, image resolution and other features are available for a little more than half the price of the LX2. Sure you lose the 16:9 aspect ratio, but with some time, a lower priced alternate will unquestionably emerge.
*Gadget Freaks *-For the gadget freak looking to impress with something new and unique that isn’t found elsewhere, the DMC-LX1 and LX2 are really tempting purchases. With marked improvements over the LX1, the LX2 should remain a coveted object for these consumers, eager as ever to display their native 16:9 snapshots on their new plasma.
Manual Control Freaks – This camera definitely has manual control options and a great menu interface, but the joystick controller may scare away this crowd.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists – While the 16:9 aspect ratio is an interesting option, the pros and serious hobbyists are unlikely to pick up this camera due to noise and color issues that photographers shooting with higher-end equipment are unlikely to overlook. Although, with the inclusion of RAW capture, some pros use it on vacation or when a DSLR is not desired.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is a great addition to the compact market if only for the unique 16:9 native 10-megapixel CCD. Photographers should keep in mind that the megapixel count will drop when shooting in other aspect ratios and when shooting at the somewhat ludicrous ISO 3200 level in High Sensitivity mode.
Manual controls for this camera continue to be a cut above the competition with ISO, focus, shutter speed, aperture, metering, exposure, white balance, and exposure compensation. The user-friendly interface and menu structure will certainly enable even novice users a comfortable transition into the manual control world. Fast adjustments to aspect ratio and focus settings were made possible through conscientious and function-first design that referenced mid-20th century analogue camera bodies.
The LX2 has certainly improved in many areas when compared to its predecessor, with advancements that include a new, faster Venus Engine III image processor, a wide-screen that is an optimized 2.8-inch LCD display, and a reduction in the initial MSRP to $499.
Theoretical improvements like the 1280 x 720 video capture come with setbacks like the stuttering 15 fps frame rate. With a nearly identical external design to the LX1, the same problems occurred when trying to make adjustments to manual control settings. The 13 MB of internal memory hardly captured two high-resolution JPEG images and RAW files could not be captured without the use of an SD/MMC memory card.
The noise reduction technology is at times, dangerous, with resulting images visibly marred in High mode. However, noise levels in general were a very noticeable improvement over the LX1 and the camera did produce sharp images with significant detail. The optically stabilized Panasonic LX2 certainly has a lot to offer consumers; unfortunately, its $499 price tag marks it as a niche camera, intended for those with a much more expensive plasma display hanging from their living room wall. For those who can easily afford the $500 price tag however, the camera will likely live up to expectations.
Specs / Ratings
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