In addition to the auto white balance mode the LX2 offers five presets (daylight, cloudy, shade, flash, and halogen) - up from three on the LX1. There is no preset for fluorescent lights, but there is a manual white balance mode that allows you to point the camera at a white or gray card and create / save two custom settings.
In use - especially when light levels are good - the LX2 delivers consistently accurate color. Under artificial lighting the results are on a par with most of the competition - as long as it's bright enough the auto WB does a good - but not great - job. When light levels drop (indoors at night) you'll get a very warm cast unless you switch to manual WB. There is also an enhanced WB fine tune function that allows you to move sliders in two directions (blue-amber and green-magenta).
Fluorescent - Auto WB
|Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 2.9%, Blue -1.6%
|Incandescent - Manual WB
Red 8.4%, Blue -10.2%
No real complaints here, though it is a little underpowered if you like to leave the LX2 set on ISO 100 (when it only reach about 6 feet). The range quoted in the literature is slightly greater than the LX1 (around 2 to 16 feet with auto ISO), though we presume this is simply because the auto ISO will go higher (up to ISO 640 - complete with noise and NR problems). For 'across the table' social shots it performs perfectly, and color and exposure very reliable. We did get some blown out results when shooting too close, though these were rare, and we'd rather the auto mode didn't use 1/30th sec so readily. The positioning of the flash so near to the lens means red-eye is fairly common unless you use the red-eye reduction system (which uses a pre-flash, so is a bit slow, but does work).
|Skin tone Excellent color and good exposure||Color chart Excellent color and exposure|
Like the LX1, the LX2 has a separate macro focus mode (as opposed to a macro scene mode), activated by a prominent switch on the fixed part of the lens barrel. The macro mode works throughout the zoom range, but - as is usual on this type of camera - only gets really close when used at the widest setting. There is inevitably some distortion when you get really close, but it is nowhere near as bad as many similar models.
Barrel and Pincushion Distortion
Nothing to complain about here - there is a small amount (1.1%) of measurable barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom, though nothing you'd see in real-world pictures, and a lot better than many ultra compacts. There is virtually no measurable distortion at the telephoto end of the zoom. Excellent. Note that all our test shots were taken in 4:3 mode; distortion is inevitably slightly higher if you shoot at 3:2 or 16:9.
|Barrel distortion - 1.1 % at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 34 mm
|Pincushion distortion - 0.3% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 136 mm
Specific image quality issues
There is no denying that the LX2 has an excellent lens, and that its color is pleasingly natural and white balance and exposure generally very reliable. But like the LX1 before it this is a camera plagued by noise - or more specifically excessive, intrusive noise reduction at all ISO settings over 100. We also encountered occasional metering / dynamic range issues, which can lead to clipped highlights or blocked-in shadows, but this tended only to be in very contrasty scenes at the very widest setting.
I don't want to sound like a broken record but the major issue with the LX2 is the excessive noise reduction at anything over ISO 100. The effect is so pronounced that even ISO 200 images have the characteristic 'watercolor' effect common to most Panasonic cameras. The saving grace is that you can turn the noise reduction down in-camera or shoot in RAW mode; frankly if you don't you may as well be using a 2 megapixel camera unless you stick to ISO 100.
|100% crop||ISO 200, Std NR, 112 mm equiv., F4.9|
Like the LX1 before it, the LX2 suffers very occasionally from mild purple fringing (there is no evidence of Chromatic Aberration in real world shots). It only happens as here at the boundaries of areas of extreme overexposure.
|100% crop||52 mm equiv., F2.8, 16:9 mode|
Exposure / clipping issues
The curse of small, high resolution sensors, lack of dynamic range means that like the LX1 the LX2 - in common with most cameras of this type - struggles to capture the full range of tones in very bright, very contrasty scenes, which can result in highlight (or shadow) clipping. Again this is something you can mitigate slightly by shooting raw. Less easy to deal with is the occasional tendency to overexpose bright scenes shot at the wide end of the lens; you soon learn to check the review image and use exposure compensation if needed.
|75 mm equiv., F4||30 mm equiv., F2.8|