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Performance & Photo Quality

The Lumix DMC-LX7 is definitely a strong performer, which is what you'd expect from Panasonic's flagship compact camera. The table below summarizes how much (or rather, how little) waiting you'll do while using the LX7:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.1 sec Above average
Autofocus
(Normal light)

0.1 - 0.3 secs (W)
0.3 - 0.7 secs (T)

Above average
Autofocus
(Low light)
~ 1 sec Average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above Average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 2 sec Above average

The LX7 has a whopping eight different continuous shooting modes. On the 'slower' end of the spectrum we have 2 and 5 frame/second options, with or without continuous autofocus. The fastest you can shoot at full resolution is 11 frames/second, with focus and exposure locked after the first shot. You can also switch to an electronic shutter and fire away at 40 or 60 frames/second, though the resolution drops to 5 and 2.5 Megapixels, respectively. Finally, there's a flash burst mode, which takes five flash photos in a row, albeit at 3 Megapixels.

There are 8 drive modes available on the LX7.

Let's see how the DMC-LX7's two most interesting burst mode options performed in our tests!

Image quality 5.5 fps w/AF 11 fps
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 12 shots @ 4.8 frames/sec 12 shots @ 11.3 frames/sec
RAW 11 shots @ 4.8 frames/sec 12 shots @ 11.4 frames/sec
Large/Fine JPEG 24 shots @ 4.9 frames/sec 12 shots @ 11.8 frames/sec
Tested with a SanDisk UHS-1 SDHC card

The good news: the DMC-LX7 shoots incredibly quickly in burst mode, with a fairly large amount of buffer memory. At the slower speeds, the camera will just slow down when you reach the above limits (a little bit for JPEGs, more for RAW). At 11 frames/second, the camera will stop shooting when the twelve shot burst is done.

The bad news: expect long write times if you're shooting RAW. For both of the speeds I tested, it took over thirty seconds for the LX7 to save its images to my very fast UHS-I SDHC card. During that time you can't take another high speed burst or enter playback mode.

Indoors

Photos are taken under indirect lighting provided by two Smith-Victor Q80 lamps at a focal length of 37mm (equivalent) and an aperture of f/5.

Now it's time to see how the LX7 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. I've opened up the full ISO range here, though the highest sensitivity (ISO 12800) is at a much lower resolution (and uses pixel binning). With a reminder to view the original images in addition to these crops, here we go:

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12800

Everything looks nice and clean through ISO 400. At ISO 800 we get a tiny bit of noise appearing, as well as a drop in color saturation. Even so, it's still quite usable for mid-sized and large prints. That trend continues at ISO 1600, reducing your print sizes a bit. If you're shooting JPEGs, I'd probably stop there. If you're shooting RAW, you can venture onward to ISO 3200, which should clean up well enough to be used for smaller-sized prints. The ISO 6400 photo is pretty lousy, though playing with the RAW images using SilkyPix makes me think that you could squeeze out a small print with a little work. I wouldn't touch ISO 12800 with a ten-foot pole - I don't know why camera companies even bother with settings this high.

Panasonic claims that the new sensor on the DMC-LX7 has less noise than that of its predecessor. Let's take a look and find out:

ISO 1600

DMC-LX5 DMC-LX7
 
ISO 3200

DMC-LX5 DMC-LX7

I'd say that that Panasonic can safely say that the LX7 has less noise than the LX5. It's not a dramatic difference, but it's an improvement nonetheless.

Nighttime

This shot was taken in manual exposure mode at f/4 at an equivalent focal length of 90mm.

After some big-time focusing problems with two different early-production LX7's, I was finally able to get sharp photos with a third model without having to resort to manual focus. Since the DMC-LX7 "only" goes to 90 mm at its telephoto end, our night shot is quite a bit wider than usual. Exposure is generally spot-on, though there's some nasty blooming in a couple of places (and I shot this at F4). As with all recent Panasonic cameras I've tested, there's a slight yellow color cast here. The buildings are nice and sharp, from one edge of the frame to the other. Noise levels are relatively low, and purple fringing was not an issue.

Alright, now let's analyze noise. Below are crops from the same night scene as above, taken at each sensitivity (ISO 80 - 6400). Here's how the noise levels looked:

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400

There's not a huge difference between the ISO 80 and 100 crops, as you'd expect. Noise starts to show up at ISO 200, though a mid-sized or large print is still very possible. Details start to go south at ISO 400, and I'd save this setting for small prints only (if you're shooting JPEGs). This trend continues at ISO 800 and 1600, so I'd reserve those sensitivities for desperation only. The ISO 3200 image is quite noisy, with horizontal banding visible in the sky. By the time you get to ISO 6400, the buildings are vanishing into the fog (figuratively speaking).

Raw Mode

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.

Low ISO

This base ISO shot show just how good the LX7's JPEG engine is at capturing fine detail. I've applied careful sharpening to the Raw file in ACR, but the difference between the converted Raw file and JPEG is minimal. If you look really closely though, the weave of the fabric on the rope is slightly better, and more naturally defined in the converted Raw file.
ISO 80 JPEG ISO 80 Raw converted 'to taste' in ACR 7.3

Another benefit to shooting Raw is that you get a small increase in dynamic range, which allows you to slightly pull back highlight areas that might have have clipped - or be close to clipping - in JPEGs.

This landscape is a tricky subject because it contains everything from deep shadow to bright highlights. Using the highlight, shadow and exposure sliders in ACR, I've been able to create a final image that contains a much wider tonal range than the out-of-camera JPEG, which looks rather washed-out.
ISO 80 JPEG ISO 80 Raw converted 'to taste' in ACR 7.3

Low Light, High ISO

At high ISO settings the LX7 isn't a fantastic performer, and you can't get a ton more detail out of its Raw files compared to JPEG. In ACR I've upped the sharpening of this Raw file, and adjusted the colors to get back some of the saturation that noise-reduction removed from the JPEG. But either file is perfectly acceptable.
ISO 6400 JPEG ISO 6400 Raw conv. 'to taste' in ACR 7.3

Macro

Our Mickey figurine is looking very good here. Its sharp as a tack, with plenty of detail. Colors are accurate for the most part, though the whites are a little on the brown side. I looked far and wide for noise and couldn't find any - and that's a good thing. The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 1 cm at wide-angle an 30 cm at full telephoto. Don't forget to flip the focus switch to the Auto Macro position in order to take close-up shots!

Red-eye Reduction

The DMC-LX7 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye. First, it'll fire the flash a few times (before exposure) to shrink your subject's pupils. If any redeye remains after the photo is taken, the camera will digitally remove it.

Unfortunately, the LX7 produced a lot of redeye in my tests, which is the exact opposite of how the LX5 performed two years ago. While your results may vary, odds are that you'll have at least some redeye in your flash photos.

Distortion


There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the LX7's 24 - 90 mm lens. Corner blurring is very minor, and vignetting isn't an issue. in my experience of using this camera.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 produces some of the best quality photos of any compact camera out there. Exposure was accurate on nearly all occasions, so you won't need to leave bracketing on all the time, as with some other cameras. The LX7 will clip highlights at times, which is the case with most cameras in its class. Colors were nice and saturated, whether they were the bright red of an Audi R8 or the green grass at Mountain View Cemetery.

Subjects are quite sharp, thanks to the high quality Leica lens. That said, I do like having Intelligent Resolution set to low or standard, to apply a bit more sharpening to fine details, but that's purely a subjective thing. Detail smudging is not a problem at low ISOs, which is not the case on the majority of compact cameras these days. The LX7 keeps noise under control through ISO 400 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light, which is certainly better than your typical compact. I did not find purple fringing to be an issue on the LX7.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our huge photo galleries and draw your own conclusion about the LX7's photo quality!

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Comments

Total comments: 13
BobFoster

Have this and other real slr's and this is fantastic camera bar none! 10 megapixel is fine to me. I can crop and always resize smaller anyway. Exceptional detail from that magic summicron leica lens. Really a great camera is all about the lens not the pixel count.

No regrets at all....

1 upvote
kpaddler

This was a great line of cameras for light travel for serious people.
I have a feeling they will to the same with GX series. If so, I jump panasonic ship.
I don't have time for goofy cameras. Olympus has shown some convictions so far.

Panasonic should go back to make just microwave oven and kitchen appliances.

0 upvotes
wgerhartz

The LX7 offers a lot of camera for its money! I liked it from the very beginning.

However, my comment emphasizes its robustness. I was careless enough to let it drop from about 7 m unto a stone floor. It survived! It fell on the left upper edge (where the flash pops out).There is a dent, and the cover warps out by less than a mm. The flash needs fingernail assistance to pop out. Apart from that, there is not the slightest flaw in the optical quality of the photographs. I am amazed!

3 upvotes
johnhb1

My LX5 survived several bad incidents. I am sure my LX7 will do what it can to keep on ticking.

0 upvotes
disraeli demon

Just upgraded to this from an LX3 and I'm loving it. Snappier all round, better noise control, faster burst rate and the combination of step zoom plus lens resume (resets the lens to the focal length it was at when the camera powered down) means I'm shooting much more in the middle of the range instead of slamming from full wide to full tele all the time.

(Plus, high-speed video at 720p!!!)

I did quite a bit of research before this upgrade, and while I was tempted by the rangefinder-style layout of the Fuji X20 (but too big for my taste and limited video) and the flip-out touch-screen of the Olympus XZ-2 (but there are stories of focussing issues and it lacks that high-speed video option) in the end, this was the one for me.

1 upvote
RP McMurphy

The door on my LX3 is long snapped off
v annoying

1 upvote
Ikay

Dear Jeff Keller,
I really enjoy reading your reviews. BUT why do you keep harping on the allegedly 'flimsy' door of the battery/card compartment? I've been with the LX series since the LX3 and this door is totally adequate. Ok,when it's open it wobbles a bit,but it's normally closed and then it's perfectly ok.
Just treat it as you would treat the rest of the camera.
Of course,if you let your 5-year-old 'use' it,it will soon become flimsy...

2 upvotes
Death89

I have to agree on this point. I've never had any issues with the door on my Panasonic cameras.

I guess it could be down to the fact I'm pretty regimented in how I change batteries/cards (I open the door, pop out the battery/card and close it again - makes sense to me not to leave a door open no matter how solidly built it is) but really as long as you don't travel round with it open I can't see how it could be a problem

2 upvotes
johnhb1

Neither can I , but they have to BS about a lot of nits to have much to say.

0 upvotes
Joseph Broz

The photo software that ships with the Lumix LX7 will not work with Windows 8. Does anyone know when Panasonic will fix this?

0 upvotes
Midwest

Unfortunately, Panasonic cannot fix the nightmare that is Windows 8.

4 upvotes
Victor Stan

Windows 7 works good, why do people rush so early to new OS? It's common sense that it takes a minimum of 6 months for any OS to be polished. Well in the case of Microsoft it takes forever since they only make a new OS because they aren't able to fix their current one. But always wait at least half a year to jump the bandwagon man!

2 upvotes
timlturner

The only way to tolerate Windows 8 is to use the free app Classic Shell. Makes windows 8 work like windows 7 but better.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 13