Some of the most beloved premium compact cameras in the last decade are Panasonic's LX-series. They always offered larger-than-average sensors but, from the LX3 onwards, the big draw of those cameras has been their fast lenses. The last LX model was the Lumix DMC-LX7, introduced back in fall of 2012. Since then, LX-series enthusiasts have been chomping at the bit for something new.

Given the rise of cameras with 1"-type sensors from the likes of Sony, Samsung, and now Canon, LX-series enthusiasts were hoping for the same in the next model. Well, we've got bad news for you: the new Lumix DMC-LX100 doesn't have one. Instead, Panasonic has somehow managed to squeeze in a Four Thirds sensor, whose area is twice as large as a 1" sensor and five times bigger than the 1/1.7" sensor in the LX7.

There is a caveat here, which is that the LX100 isn't actually using the entire sensor, instead cropping it to allow for multi-aspect shooting (just as its predecessor did). Thus, the effective sensor area on the LX100 is really 1.5X larger than 1" and 4.3X the size of 1/1.7". In our experience, the added creative encouragement offered by the multi-aspect approach, combined with a conveniently-placed aspect ratio switch is more valuable than the extra couple of megapixels and larger lens that a full-sensor design would require.

4:3
3:2
16:9
1:1
The hallmark feature of the LX100 is its Four Thirds sensor which, as we mentioned, is significantly larger than any other zoom compact save for the PowerShot G1 X II and its predecessor. If Panasonic used the entire 16 megapixel Four Thirds sensor it would be twice the size of the 1" sensors found on the likes of the Canon PowerShot G7 X and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, but the camera's multi-aspect ratio requires a crop, so the difference is actually 1.5X. Even so, that's a considerable advantage, especially when combined with the LX100's fast lens.

Another big feature on the LX100 is its lens, which has a maximum aperture range of F1.7-2.8 and an effective focal range of 24-75mm. When you combine the fast lens and large sensor the LX100 ends up being a pretty impressive camera for those who like shallow depth-of-field. And should also mean greatly improved low light shooting.

This graph plots the equivalent focal lengths and apertures of the LX100 against its immediate rivals. That is, it compares the zoom range and apertures on a common basis. Lower down the diagram is better, all else being equal.

So, while the LX100 is a considerably larger camera than its predecessors, its larger sensor means it promises to be a more capable one. Whereas the LX3 competed with the Canon PowerShot G10's 1/1.7" sensor, the LX100 looks ready to trade blows with the PowerShot G1 X II. The level of direct control is increased, in proportion to its greater ambitions; with dedicated aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials.

The styling of the LX100 is also significantly different from previous LX models, borrowing much more from Panasonic's DMC-L1 DSLR and LC1 high-end compact than from the LX series. The result is a bigger camera but also a considerably more serious one, and one that's pretty good looking.

Panasonic LX100 key features

  • 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor (Up to 12.7MP used)
  • 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens
  • Multi-aspect feature maintains diagonal angle-of-view at 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9
  • Venus Engine from DMC-GH4 and DMC-FZ1000
  • XGA-resolution electronic viewfinder (1024 x768 pixels)
  • Aperture and control dials around lens, shutter speed dial on top plate
  • 3" 921k dot LCD
  • 11 fps continuous shooting (6.5 with C-AF)
  • 4K video recording at 30p and 24, Full HD at up to 60p
  • In-camera Raw conversion
  • Wi-Fi with NFC

As you can see, that's a pretty extensive list but, as it turns out, it's only a list of the headline specifications of the camera. The LX100 also includes a time-lapse function, the ability to create in-camera stop motion videos and a host of other specialist features. We cover as many of these as is practical in our full review, but aren't able to go into depth about everything.

Those who enjoy Panasonic's Creative Effects can now use them in A/S/M mode. A new timed exposure is essentially a bulb mode where you choose how long the exposure is. In addition to 4K video, the LX100 also has a 4K Photo mode, which lets you use the aspect ratio of your choice. The camera also offers an electronic shutter option for silent shooting.

One trade-off that comes from the addition of an EVF is the loss of the flash. Panasonic includes a clip-on compact external flash in the box that has a guide number of 7m at ISO 100. The in-lens shutter on the camera can sync with the flash all the way up to its 1/4000th of a second upper limit. The electronic shutter that extends beyond that cannot be used with flash.

Specs compared

 
Lumix DMC-LX7
Lumix DMC-LX100
PowerShot G1 X II
Sensor type
(Area of 4:3 crop)
1/1.7"
(35mm2)
4/3"
(180 mm2)
1.5"
(239 mm2)
Effective resolution
9.9MP
12.7MP
12.9MP
Focal length (35mm equiv).
24-90m
24-75mm
24-120mm
Max aperture
F1.4 - F2.3
F1.7 - F2.8
F2.0 - F3.9
Multi-aspect
Yes (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)*
Yes (4:3, 3:2)
Minimum focus distance
1cm - 30cm
3cm - 30cm
5cm-40cm
ISO range (fully expanded)
80 - 12800 **
100 - 25600
100 - 12800
Viewfinder
Optional 1.44m dot EVF
Built-in 2.76m dot equiv EVF, optional OVF
Optional EVF 2.76M dot EVF
Display
3" LCD (920k dot)
3" LCD (920k dot)
3" LCD (1.04m dot) touch screen
Burst rates (S-AF, C-AF)
11 fps, 5 fps
11 fps, 6.5 fps
5.2 fps, 3.0 fps
Video
1080p/60
4K/30p, 1080p/60
1080p/30
External controls
Aperture
Aperture, focus, shutter speed, exposure comp
Lens control dial and rear-plate thumb dial
Built-in flash
Yes
No (external included)
Yes
Wi-Fi
No
Yes (with NFC)
Yes (with NFC)
Battery life (CIPA)
330 shots
300 shots
240 shots
Weight (Inc. battery)
298g
393g
553g
Dimensions
111 x 67 x 46mm
115 x 66 x 55mm
116 x 74 x 66mm

* Different angle of view offered in 1:1 shooting
** Highest ISO images only at reduced resolution

The impressive thing to note is how much smaller and lighter the LX100 is than the G1 X II and that it's not dramatically larger than the LX7. It's enough of the difference that the LX100 will probably have to go in a coat pocket or the corner of a bag, but it's still a lot smaller than a comparable interchangeable lens camera.

Kit options and accessories

The LX100 has a list price of $899/. This is $100 more than the Canon G1 X II's launch price, but the LX100 includes a built-in viewfinder, as well as 4K video capture, both of which the Canon lacks.

A cool accessory that Panasonic will be offering is the auto lens cap you see above. We've seen this sort of lens protector from Ricoh and Olympus before, but we still think they're fun.

Updates to review:

Sept 15, 2014: Introduction, Specs, Body, and First Impressions pages published
Oct 6, 2014: Samples gallery added
Oct 29, 2014: Controls, Shooting Experience & Studio pages added. First Impressions deprecated.
Nov 18, 2014: Introduction re-worked, Lens, Features, Image Quality, Dynamic Range and Conclusion pages published

Panasonic discusses LX100 at Photokina 2014:


Huge thanks to Kenmore Camera for their assistance with this review.