Panasonic Lumix LX10 Digital Camera Review
Panasonic's new compact cam blends in with the crowd—and not in a good way
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It's a great time to be a photography buff, but not everyone wants to carry a DSLR around all the time. That's where advanced compact cameras can really come in handy. Models like the Sony RX100 Mark IV and Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II both have an easy-to-carry size with a zoom lens and a smartphone-beating 1-inch sensor inside.
Along the same lines, this Panasonic Lumix LX10 (also known as the LX15 in some markets, MSRP $699) is another take on a similar concept. Featuring a 24-72mm equivalent zoom lens that's as fast as f/1.4 (when zoomed all the way out), the LX10 packs impressive technology into a tiny package that I had no problem carrying in my pants pockets.
This is one nice little camera, but it's just not nice enough to recommend for the price. Even though it beats Sony and Canon's similarly-priced options when it comes to video, the Lumix needed more than a slightly faster lens or better image stabilization to makes its case. This is a good camera, but in a class of already commendable picks, it just doesn't stand out in a big way.
What We Like
Good stills and even better 4K video
We've gotten excellent results from Panasonic cameras in the past, and the LX10 didn't surprise us with its performance. In our labs and out in the street, this compact Lumix kept up nicely with everything we threw at it, but only to a point. Of course, you're not going to get performance that'll rival a Micro Four Thirds or APS-C mirrorless or DSLR, but the 1-inch sensor inside the LX10 balances imaging prowess with size almost perfectly.
A 1-inch sensor like that in the LX10 can get you excellent photos, as long as you keep noise in check. I found that at ISO 1600 the noise is very noticeable and that the camera's default noise reduction was overly aggressive. I'd recommend either shooting in RAW at high ISOs or bumping the noise reduction down to make these shots more usable. Thankfully, with its image stabilization and fast lens, the LX10 gives you other ways to shoot in low light without blurring or having to resort to the camera's highest ISOs.
Where the LX10 truly shines is when it comes to shooting 4K video. Panasonic's 4K video is among the best, and especially for casual video shooting, there are few cameras that are more convenient and fully-featured. The LX10 doesn't have a headphone or microphone jack, but it's good enough to capture a few memories in a pinch. There are two caveats worth noting: you still need a fast SD card to smoothly record 4K, and the camera's 5-axis stabilization system only works with HD video, not when shooting 4K.
Premium controls and a metal body that feel like a million bucks
Panasonic knows what enthusiasts love in a point-and-shoot, and the LX100 made that point abundantly clear in 2014. The LX10 shares some of that heritage, putting excellent, tactile controls front and center. Even though the metal body is a little slick to hold, its lens ring, aperture dial, and rear control dial all feel tight and satisfying to use.
Even the rear tilting LCD adds to the mix of physical controls. The touchscreen works reliably every time, and the interface has been tweaked to take advantage of touch everywhere, whether you're focusing on a subject or tapping through menus. For me, touch is a must-have on a camera of this size. It's also something that all of Sony's five generations of RX100s conspicuously lack, which is a real shame.
My only minor complaint is that there's no way to set the aperture ring on Auto and relegate control to the rear dial. If you prefer to shoot aperture priority, like me, the camera needs both hands to hold the camera while turning the aperture ring on the front.
What We Don't Like
Lacks features you'd expect in an advanced point-and-shoot
Even though Panasonic has imbued the LX10 with a couple tricks that Sony can't match, that certainly doesn't mean it's got everything I like to see in a point-and-shoot. For instance, the lack of a built-in ND filter is a real head-scratcher.
In a camera like the Sony RX100 IV, Ricoh GR, or Fujifilm X100F, a tap of a button brings down an internal ND filter, which is a lifesaver if you want to shoot at bigger apertures when the sun's beating down. With the LX10, you'll end up with overexposed photos in instances where a camera with an ND filter would happily shoot.
What this Lumix also lacks is what Sony's brought to the table in its five generations of RX100. More recent RX100s have EVFs built-in, something that helps set them apart. Additionally, the Sony competition have more versatile rear displays. The LX10's screen only pivots up 180-degrees, and can't tilt downwards at all, limiting its usefulness. Finally, the pricey RX100 V boasts blazing fast autofocus with phase detection, and it can even shoot 24 fps in burst at full resolution.
"f/1.4" lens is mostly an f/2.8 lens
If you were hoping that this camera was going to make good on its promise to give you a bright f/1.4 aperture, you're gonna be super disappointed. Even though the LX10 gives you f/1.4 at its widest, 24mm equivalent that aperture setting quickly drops down as soon as you start zooming in. Once you hit around 31mm, you're at f/2.8, so that means that the rest of the camera's zoom range until you're completely zoomed in, you can't open the lens up any further.
It's impressive that Panasonic even was able to achieve f/1.4 on the wide end. But, I can't help but feel that Panasonic just wanted the better number on its camera, as the RX100 IV has a slightly smaller f/1.8 aperture to start, with a little less zoom overall. I'd say both cameras are realistically very close to one another, and that you shouldn't be fooled by that mouth-watering f/1.4 aperture—the Sony RX100s will get you close enough.
A camera that's great when taken on its own, but doesn't outshine its peers
I enjoyed shooting with the Lumix LX10, but it's hard to recommend when the competition is equally as good and has it beat in more meaningful ways.
For instance, while the zoom lens of the LX10 gives you 3x optical, the equally-priced Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II has 4.2x zoom. And, if you can spend just $100 more, you'll get the significantly better Panasonic Lumix LX100, with a bigger sensor and better lens. The LX100 might not be pocketable, but it's a big step-up from the LX10 in most ways.
This is all to say that Panasonic's put together a fine camera, but it's not the best at any one thing. It has an impressive stabilization system inside, and a fast lens (at least at the wide, 24mm end of things) but I think you'd be just as happy with the competition from Sony and Canon. Unless the price on the LX10 drops under $600, I can't see giving this the nod over those other, similar cameras.
Even though I think Panasonic has done its LX heritage proud, the market is just too crowded with very similar options to make the Lumix an obvious choice. Even looking at value, the LX10 keeps up but doesn't sway me with its technology or image quality when compared to the rest of the pack.