Sony RX100 vs Panasonic LX7 - First impressions

Started May 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Travis
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Sony RX100 vs Panasonic LX7 - First impressions
May 3, 2013

Currently deciding between these two cameras for an upcoming trip to Disneyworld.  Though I have an OMD for more serious photography, I wanted something small, light, and convenient for use within the parks with my family.  I'm deciding between these two cameras because I feel they have the best compromises between image quality and compactness - along with top notch video.

Anyway, I got them both yesterday and wanted to give my initial impressions after some indoor use in my home.  Obviously, these are just initial impressions as I will want to spend some time with both of them outdoors (when it quits raining) and make a final judgment in about a week.

SO FAR, I am really liking both cameras, and they both have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.  As everyone will have their own weighted scale on what is most important to them, these are only my opinions and should not be applied universally to everyone.

Without further delay, here are my initial thoughts:

  1. The RX100 is both more pocketable and harder to handle.  For my particular use, I like the idea of slipping the RX100 in and out of my front pocket while visiting the Disney parks.  While the LX7 does fit into my pocket, it does not do so as comfortably or conveniently.  However, it is easier to grip and has more buttons for easier controls.  For more serious photography, I would normally prefer the extra buttons and ergonomics, but for my use, I'm thinking the RX100's ultra compactness is a boon.  ADVANTAGE:  RX100 (for my use)
  2. The image quality on both cameras is very good, though obviously not up to the standards of my OMD.  The LX7 seems to have better auto white balance in incandescent lighting, but the RX100 has a cleaner image at high ISO.  The LX7's auto exposure tends to favor overbrightness, while the RX100 seems to underexpose a bit.  On default "standard" setting, I found the RX100's images a bit too contrasty so I bumped that down a notch.  The RX100 obviously has the advantage of more resolution, but the LX7 seems sharper on default settings.  The LX7 also has the advantage of a faster lens (particularly at the tele end).   I would not be disappointed by either camera's performance!  ADVANTAGE:  LX7 (for exposure, white balance and faster lens), RX100 (for resolution and noise)
  3. Both cameras seem to have good flash metering, but I really like the RX100's ability to do bounce flash by holding the popup back when shooting flash photos.  I really did not think that little flash would have enough power to illuminate a room indoors, but it did!  Granted, the LX7 has a hot shoe for external flash, but I would not anticipate wanting to use external flashes on either of these cameras.  With that in mind, I give the slight advantage to the RX100 for its bounce capability (though it would have been nice if it locked into place in this position for successive photos).  ADVANTAGE:  RX100 
  4. Video quality on both cameras is superb!  So far, I have only noticed a few minor differences.  The RX100 needs a bit of +Exposure Compensation when shooting videos in low light, in my opinion.  The LX7, on the other hand, seems to clip highlights so a bit of -EC tends to be necessary.  Note that this is only in the videos I have taken indoors under incandescent lighting - outdoors tests will follow.   I plan on shooting everything in 1080p/60, and neither camera disappointed in terms of video quality and performance.  I think the RX100's image stabilization seemed a bit better than the LX7's, but the difference was minor.  The LX7 does better indoors at telephoto because of its faster lens, but the RX100's has noise under control a bit more.  However, in extreme low light, you'll reach the max ISO on both cameras and so the LX7 can actually be brighter because of its faster lens.  ADVANTAGE:  TIE
  5. There are some unique features on each camera that are minor, albeit noticeable considerations.  Though I have not tried it out yet, the LX7 has a built-in ND filter which would come in handy for using slower shutter speeds for video, or for reducing the brightness in harsh sunlight.  I already mentioned the RX100's bounce flash ability, which was surprisingly good.  I believe the macro ability of the LX7 is superior due to its closer minimum focus range - though again, I have not had the time to try this out yet.  The RX100 has a faster and smoother zoom IMO.  I really like it that I do not needs a lens cap on the RX100, the advantage of which is amplified by the annoying lens cap on the LX7 (and yes, I'm aware of the replacement that works better).

There are other things I really can't comment on yet like battery life and outdoor image/video quality.  My initial impressions are that the LX7 is probably a little more versatile but the RX100's compactness and image quality cannot be overstated.  Right now, I'm leaning towards the RX100 but there are a few things that could tip the scale.

I will update later when I have had more time with both cameras.  Thank you for your time.

Travis

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