Please note that in addition to this collaborative review, we have also produced a 6-page hands-on preview of the LX7, which contains plenty of additional information. You can find that preview here.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 ($499) is the long-awaited replacement to the very popular DMC-LX5. The LX5 (and its predecessors) was well known for its low light ability, and Panasonic has improved on that in two ways. First, there's the LX7's lens: with a maximum aperture range of F1.4 - F2.3, it lets in way more light than what you'd find on a compact camera. The fast aperture range also allows for better background blurring than what you'll find on nearly every fixed-lens camera on the market. In addition, the LX7's sensor and image processor have both been improved, allowing for less noise at high sensitivities.
Other new features on the LX7 include a manual aperture ring, higher resolution LCD display, neutral density filter, 11 fps continuous shooting, HDR capability, and the ability to record movies at 1080/60p (with stereo sound).
For the full breakdown of what separates the 2010's LX5 and the new LX7, take a look at this chart:
|Lumix DMC-LX5||Lumix DMC-LX7|
|Sensor resolution (size / type)||10.1 MP (1/1.63" CCD)||10.1 MP (1/1.7" MOS)|
|Lens max aperture range||F2.0 - F3.3||F1.4 - F2.3|
|Lens focal range (zoom power)||24 - 90 mm (3.8X)|
|AF system||Sonic Speed AF||Light Speed AF|
|LCD size/resolution||3-inch / 460k dots||3-inch / 920k dots|
|Burst rate (full resolution)||2.5 frames/sec||11 frames/sec|
|ISO range (full resolution)||80 - 3200 *||80 - 6400 **|
|Shutter speed range||250 - 1/4000 sec ***|
|Flash working range (Auto ISO)||0.8 - 7.2 m (W)
0.3 - 4.4 m (T)
|0.8 - 8.5 m (W)
0.3 - 5.2 m (T)
|In-camera panorama stitching||No||Yes|
|Max movie resolution||1280 x 720||1920 x 1080|
|Movie codecs used||AVCHD Lite, M-JPEG||AVCHD, MPEG-4|
|High speed movies||No||Yes|
|Built-in memory||40 MB||70 MB|
|Battery life (CIPA)||400 shots||330 shots|
|Dimensions||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.||4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 in.|
|Weight (body only, empty)||233 g||269 g|
|* Can go to ISO 6400 and 12800 using pixel binning
** Can go to ISO 12800 using pixel binning
*** 250 sec shutter speed requires firmware 2.0 on DMC-LX5
As you can see, the LX7 is an improvement over the LX5 in almost every area. The only real step down is in terms of battery life, which has dropped by nearly 20% (why, I do not know).
Will the DMC-LX7 follow in its predecessor's footsteps and be a top choice for low light photography? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
Despite being somewhat of a 'premium' compact camera, the DSC-LX7's bundle is pretty standard. Here's what you'll find inside the box:
- The 10.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-LX7 digital camera
- DMW-BCJ13 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio 8.3 PE Edition, SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, and LoiLoScope trial
- 34 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)
Panasonic has built 70MB of memory into the DMC-LX7 - up from 40MB on the LX5. That'll hold five RAW or sixteen JPEGs at the highest quality setting - enough for emergencies, but not daily use. Therefore, you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The LX7, like all Panasonic cameras, supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend a 4GB card if you're mostly taking stills, and an 8GB or 16GB card if you'll be taking a lot of HD movies. Purchasing a high speed (Class 6 or faster) card is strongly recommended for best camera performance.
The DMC-LX7 uses the same DMW-BCJ13 lithium-ion battery as the DMC-LX5 that came before it. This battery holds 4.5 Wh of energy, which is decent but not exceptional. For whatever reason (the LCD, maybe?), the battery life on the LX7 has dropped by almost 20% compared to the LX5. Here's how it holds up against the premium compact competition:
|Canon PowerShot S100||200 shots||NB-5L|
|Fujifilm X10||270 shots||NP-50|
|Nikon Coolpix P310||230 shots||EN-EL12|
|Olympus XZ-1||320 shots||LI-50B|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7||330 shots||DMW-BCJ13|
|Samsung EX2F||240 shots||SLB-10A|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100||330 shots||NP-BX1|
Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer
Despite not having the same battery strength as its predecessor, the DMC-LX7 is still tied for the best battery life in its class. If you want to pick up a spare battery, a Panasonic-branded one will set you back around $32.
Like most premium compacts, the LX7 has a large selection of accessories available. They include:
|Electronic viewfinder||DMW-LVF2||From $160||This articulating EVF can tilt upward 90 degrees and has 1.44 million dots. The 0.7X (equivalent) magnification is nice and large. Mounts via the hot shoe and connects to the accessory port.|
|Optical viewfinder||DMW-VF1||From $140||This OVF is designed for use at full wide-angle, and also has markings for shooting at 50 mm.|
|Neutral density filter||DMW-LND37||$45||While I don't know why you'd need this, as the camera has an ND filter built-in, this filter reduces the amount of light coming through the lens by three stops. Allows for slower shutter speeds and wider apertures. Requires filter adapter below.|
|Polarizing filter||DMW-LPLA37||$70||Reduces glare and makes the sky look bluer. Requires filter adapter below.|
|MC protector||DMW-LMCH37||$40||Protects your fancy Leica lens from being scratched. Requires filter adapter below.|
|Filter adapter kit||DMW-FA1||TBC||Allows you to use any 37 mm filter, including the three above.|
|The first flash is pretty basic. The next two have high speed x-sync, bounce functionality, and a wider angle-of-view.|
|A/V cable||DMW-AVC1||From $14||Normally this cable is included, but not on the LX7. Lets you connect to standard television.|
|You need both of these accessories to power the LX7 without draining its battery. The DC coupler seems to be impossible to find.|
|Body case||DMW-CLX7||TBC||Traditional leather body cases, available in black and white. Very difficult to actually buy.|
|Prices accurate at time of publication|
The one surprising omission here is any kind of remote shutter release. I think a lot of enthusiasts would appreciate being able to release the shutter using a wired or wireless remote.
Panasonic includes PhotoFunStudio 8.3 PE Edition software with the Lumix DMC-LX7. This Windows-only software handles basic tasks fairly well, though the whole 'wizard' system gets tiring quickly. On the main screen you'll see the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos by folders, date, or by things as specific as scene mode. The software can learn to recognize faces (much like the camera itself), which offers you another way to browse through your pictures. Available editing features give you the ability to crop, rotate, or change the aspect ratio of your photos, as well as adjusting color, brightness, saturation, and more. You can apply special effects to photos, overlay text, or remove redeye. PhotoFunStudio can also be used to create panoramic images that you've taken on the camera.
Something PhotoFunStudio cannot do is edit RAW images. For that, Panasonic provides SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, for both Mac and Windows. SilkyPix isn't going to win any awards for its user interface or poorly translated menus, but it's still a very capable editing tool. If you'd like to use Photoshop instead, you'll need to wait for Adobe to add support for the LX7 to their Camera Raw plug-in.
PhotoFunStudio can, however, work with the movies produced by the LX7. You can edit your video and then burn the results to a Blu-ray (or DVD) disc. You can also save the edited movie in MPEG-2 format. If you want to use something else to edit your videos, most modern Windows video editing suites can work with the AVCHD files produced by the LX7. However, some of them may not support the AVCHD Progressive format, so check with your software manufacturer first. Mac users can edit the 1080/60p video without issue using the latest versions of Final Cut Pro X or iMovie '11.
The LX7's documentation is split up into two parts - something I'm never a fan of. Inside the box is a thin 'basic manual' to get you up and running. If you want more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which is PDF format on an included CD-ROM. While detailed, the manuals aren't what I'd call user friendly. Instructions for using the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.
A version of this review was first published at www.dcresource.com, but is presented here with some changes, notably the inclusion of a full set of product images, our usual studio comparisons and an expanded samples gallery, plus the addition of a standard dpreview score.