Physically, the LX7 is extremely similar to its predecessor the LX5. It's a not-quite-pocketable camera but the handgrip is pleasantly more substantial than that of its predecessor.
The LX7's tiny lens cap comes with a retaining strap, though actually attaching it requires incredible dexterity.
The blockbuster feature on the LX7 is undoubtedly its super-fast lens. This F1.4-2.3, 3.8X optical zoom Leica lens is the fastest that you'll find in a compact camera, narrowly edging out Samsung's new EX2F.
Just above the hot shoe and stereo mic is the aspect ratio switch. The LX7 is quite unique in that the diagonal angle of view remains the same regardless of the aspect ratio (except 1:1 mode, which is a crop of 4:3). Above that switch is the LX7's new aperture ring. This ring electronically sets the aperture from F1.4 to F8, though it's only usable in A and M modes.
A clearer view of the aspect ratio slider control, and you can also see the two mic ports for stereo sound during video recording.
On this side of the LX7 you can see the focus mode selection switch. The AF and AF macro modes are similar, with the latter focusing at shorter distances. In manual focus mode you use the new ND filter/focus dial to set the focus distance. A portion of the frame is enlarged, and the camera displays a distance guide on the LCD.
On the top right of the LX7 you'll find the exposure mode dial, next to which is the shutter release button and zoom rocker. The zoom moves slowly from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.8 seconds. I counted eighteen steps in the LX7's 3.8X zoom range.
The last two things to see on the top of the camera include the dedicated movie recording button and the power switch.
At the upper-right of the photo is the LX7's control dial. While it can be used for menu navigation and reviewing photos, its main job is adjusting exposure (compensation, shutter speed, aperture). For some reason the dial seems really 'sticky', and doesn't turn smoothly.
To the upper-right of the lens is the LX7's pop-up flash, which is released manually. The working range of the flash is 0.8 - 8.5 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 5.2 m at telephoto - both of which are good numbers. If you want even more flash power, as well as a lower likelihood of redeye, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe.
On top of the LX7 is the hot shoe (with the stereo mic above it), which works with the three Panasonic flashes I mentioned in the accessory section, and their slightly cheaper Olympus equivalents.
If you want to use a viewfinder, you have your choice of optical or electronic models to choose from. Both are mounted to the hot shoe, with the EVF also being plugged in to the accessory port just above the LCD.
Moving right from the accessory port is the new ND filter / focus switch. Pressing the switch inward turns on the neutral density filter, which reduces the amount of light coming through the lens. This will let you use slower shutter speeds or wider apertures than you could otherwise. If you're manually focusing, you can use the switch to set the focus distance.
To the upper left of the lens is the LX7's AF-assist lamp. In addition to helping the camera focus in low light situations, this lamp also flashes while the self-timer is counting down.
On the right side of the camera we have the LX7's I/O ports, which are kept under a plastic door. They include Mini HDMI on the top, and USB + A/V output on the bottom.
On the bottom of the LX7 you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is quite flimsy, which is disappointing to find on Panasonic's flagship compact camera.
The included DMW-BJC13 li-ion battery can be seen at left.
Thankfully the tripod mount is far away enough that you can access the memory card or battery while the camera is on a tripod. The mount is also not centered on the lens.