Roundup: Enthusiast Zoom Compact Cameras
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
10MP | 24-90mm (3.75x) Zoom | $300 (US) £355 (UK) €460 (EU)
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- Full specifications, plus user reviews and more sample images
- Read our full review (published September 2012)
Following the groundbreaking LX3 and LX5, Panasonic came back this summer with the LX7, a refreshed model with an exceptionally fast F1.4-2.3 24-90mm (equivalent) zoom lens. With the launch of the LX7, Panasonic will be hoping to regain some of the ground lost to competitors over the past couple of years (many of whom have spent that time enthusiastically copying its idea). To encourage you to make the most of its fast lens, Panasonic has added an aperture ring around the LX7's lens barrel, alongside a 3-stop neutral density filter that has its own external control point.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 key features
- 10.1 MP multi-aspect ratio 'High Sensitivity MOS' sensor (1/1.7"-type, 12.7 MP total)
- 24-90mm equivalent, F1.4 - F2.3 optically stabilized lens
- ISO 80-12800
- Aperture ring around lens, combined ND/manual focus control on rear and four-way dial
- 1080 60p/50p video with built-in stereo microphones
- 921K dot 3" screen with Anti-Reflective coating
- 330 shot battery life (CIPA)
- Hot shoe for external flash units
- Port for DMW-LVF2 accessory electronic viewfinder
- Built-in 3 stop neutral density filter
The LX7 also gets a new sensor, a 'High Sensitivity MOS' design, but as before this offers multiple aspect ratios (16:9, 3:2, 4:3) that use different crops from the overall sensor area to give the same diagonal angle of view. These are easily selected using a switch on the top of the lens, which also has a 1:1 position that's effectively cropped-down from the 4:3 frame. Continuous shooting specs are impressively high; 11 fps at full resolution with focus and exposure fixed, or 5 fps with tracking AF, compared to the LX5's 2.5 fps.
The LX7's MOS sensor enables a dramatically-improved video specification, with the LX7 capable of recording Full HD video in either the AVCHD Progressive or MP4 formats.
The LX7 maintains the same form factor as its predecessors, with a compact metal-clad body that's liberally peppered with buttons, dials and switches. Two notable control additions are the aperture ring around the lens barrel and the ND/Focus lever on the back plate. Clicking-in the latter engages or disengages the LX7's built-in 3-stop neutral density filter, which allows you to shoot at large apertures in bright light or use slower shutter speeds. In manual focus mode, pushing the lever left or right adjusts focus.
The lack of a touchscreen in the LX7 is disappointing given how well it's been integrated into other Panasonic models. We can sort-of see Panasonic's line of reasoning here - it means you don't have to move your left hand from the aperture ring to operate the screen - but we do like being able to specify the focus point by simply pressing the screen, and rather miss it on the LX7.
Performance and image quality
In use, the LX7 is a perfectly pleasant companion, and like its predecessors, one of the most 'finished' feeling compact cameras on the market. Although it is considerably chunkier than its lower-end travelzoom and point-and-shoot cousins the LX7 remains small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, and its fast lens and responsive autofocus make it a good choice for people and street photography. Where previous LX models could feel somewhat slow in operation, especially when shooting Raw files, the LX7 is positively sprightly. Even with a non UHS-I card installed, shot-to-shot times are around one second, which is perfectly reasonable.
At its lowest ISO sensitivity settings the LX7 gives virtually identical image quality to its predecessor the LX5. Detail capture is very high and noise isn't visible until ISO 400, and even then, only just. Close inspection reveals that low contrast detail begins to disappear above ISO 400, and by ISO 800, although image quality is still excellent, fine detail is clearly being smoothed by noise-reduction.
At ISO 1600, noise is a factor in images captured with the LX7, and it this gets more severe at ISO 3200 and above. By ISO 6400 a general haziness swamps most of the fine detail. ISO 12,800 is a reduced-resolution capture mode and critically speaking, image quality is desperately poor.
The LX7 features a Raw capture mode, naturally, and although the camera's JPEG performance is very good, you get a little more when shooting Raw files, both in terms of flexibility (you can adjust white balance and exposure much more effectively post-capture) and critical image quality. If you're shooting at high ISO sensitivity settings in poor light, shooting Raw can also make a difference, as long as you don't mind spending a little time working on the files later. That said, in terms of absolute detail, the LX7's JPEGs are extremely good.
The LX7 has a very nice collection of features that should make just about everybody happy. If you're a 'set it and forget it' kind of person, then look no further than Panasonic's great Intelligent Auto mode. That said, as you'd expect from this premium compact, there are plenty of manual controls on the LX7, too. You get all the usual exposure options, RAW support, lots of white balance options, and three types of bracketing.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 is an excellent premium compact camera. Its fast lens, performance, and manual controls will make enthusiasts drool, while those just starting out can get great results using Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode. There's very little to dislike about the LX7, with our main issues being redeye, slow buffer flush times when shooting RAW images, and vertical lines in panoramas. Aside from that, the LX7 is a first-rate camera and a strong contender in this segment of the market.
Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)
|Studio Comparison Scene||Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 (32 images)|
What we like: Fast, sharp lens, highly detailed JPEGs, excellent intelligent Auto mode
What we don't like: Relatively restrictive zoom range for its class, dedicated aperture ring less flexible than the customizable lens control rings on rival cameras.
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