Opinion: Why buy a Panasonic LX100 when you could buy a GX7?
|The Panasonic Lumix GX7 (left) and Lumix LX100 side-by-side. They offer same sized Four Thirds sensors, but the LX100's lens is fixed where the GX7's is interchangeable.|
It was fine once upon a time for the compact camera department to ignore and be ignored by the department that made interchangeable lens system cameras. The difference between the two types of cameras was so great and the target market usually so different that there was very little chance of one stepping on the toes of the other. There would be times, inevitably, when one would produce a camera that the other was extremely jealous of, and there may have been restrained congratulations over the fence at lunchtime, but largely the two worlds would remain quite apart.
The line between the compact and the SLR began to blur somewhat with the disruptive influence of the Advanced Photo System (APS), and while the system itself was short lived, the cameras it generated have made a lasting impression. Today’s compact system cameras are only a logical progression, and the butch high-end compacts that we enjoy today are the grandchildren of the feature-rich ambition that dropped as seeds the day the flower heads of the APS system dried up and died.
The birth of the gap-filling high-end digital compact
The craving for high-end compacts was developed in the period during which compact cameras were all that digital enthusiasts could afford. To cater for their SLR-fed palate and compensate for their frustrations, compacts were made that acted like DSLRs, looked a bit more like DSLRs than compact cameras and which even had the turny wheels and dials that SLRs used too. I think we rather liked those cameras, and were amazed by what they could do (and wondered why our film compacts couldn’t have PASM modes). And our taste for the small camera that offers lots of control and better-than-average image quality did not go away the day DSLRs became cheap enough that most photographers could comfortably afford one.
These days we have the very DSLR-like Canon PowerShot G series – the Godfathers of the advanced compact – and the drive has continued with larger sensors, more pixels and more DSLR-type functions in ever-smaller bodies. It is a great thing, but the desire for high image quality, and high spec bodies and lenses, has forced the price of these things in an ever upward path - some now are more expensive than the DSLRs this category was originally designed to just emulate.
Nothing better to do - thankfully
The rise and dominance of today’s high-end compact camera has more to do with the fact that the squabbling low-end of the market is being ferociously digested by the very smart smartphones that keep arriving and magnetically holding the gaze of the ex-camera-buying public. With nothing to do save some thumb twiddling, the main camera brands have suddenly got serious about the advanced and enabled compact category and are finally paying it the amount of attention that photographers have wanted for a long time (we think that's a very good thing). So in many ways the decimation of the junk-end compact market is great news for the serious photographer, as the cameras brands no longer have the capacity-consuming distraction of the mass-mass market.
|The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II is sold alongside the preceding model, offering a 1.5" sensor that's only 20% smaller than Canon's APS-C sensor.|
The introduction of the big sensor compact was a great thing, and the interest around Canon’s almost-APS-C PowerShot G1 X demonstrated the existence of a demand almost all brands seemed to have been ignoring. What was magic about that camera was not that it was a compact camera with a big sensor, but that it combined the ideals of a small body with high image quality. The demand existed not because photographers want compacts that take good pictures, but because their good-picture cameras were too big.
Where fixed and interchangeable systems collide
With the emergence of the Micro Four Thirds system as a ‘good picture system’, and now that we have APS-C cameras with smaller bodies, the demand for small cameras that take good pictures is being met from two angles – small changeable lens models from above and high quality compacts from below. That makes me wonder what the photographer has in his mind when he walks into the camera store to buy something that he can take away with him at the weekend. He will want something that is going to take pictures that come close to the quality he is used to from his SLRs, but which is small enough to take to a romantic dinner without obscuring the tablecloth or tripping the waiter from under his chair. But is the picture in his head of a compact camera or a small system camera?
|The enthusiast-focused LX100 sports a fixed 24-75mm equivalent lens with dials for adjusting aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, as well as a manual focus ring.|
When we put the new Panasonic Lumix LX100 next to the same company’s Lumix DMC-GX7 and Lumix DMC-GM5 we might have to spend some time deciding what it is that we actually want. Here we are faced with cameras that use the same sized sensor (although not all of it, in the case of the Lumix LX100), the same EVF and essentially the same menu systems and layout.
The LX camera has a lens that doesn’t come off while the GX and GM cameras have access to close to 60 lenses via Panasonic’s own G system, Olympus’ Pen and OM-D lenses as well as the independent contributions to the Micro Four Thirds system of Tamron, Sigma, Samyang, Voigtlander and Zeiss – not to mention those cheap C-mount CCTV lenses on eBay. Suddenly we have to question the existence of the high-end compact, and whether it is a category that we actually have a need for anymore. Has Panasonic produced something that just competes with its own current line-up, and which is a relic of a battle we no longer need to fight?
So, what’s the difference?
Should we compare the Panasonic Lumix LX100 and the Lumix GX7 with an eye to finding a small good-quality camera, there seems at first not much to choose between them. The $899 / £799 we’d have to shell out for the Lumix LX100 would buy a Lumix DMC-GX7 with a standard zoom and we’d have a bit to spare towards another lens. But part of the attraction of the Lumix LX100 is its lens – the 24-75mm equiv. Leica F1.7-2.8 DC Vario-Summilux. The equivalent 12-35mm X Vario F2.8 for the Lumix DMC-GX7 costs as much as the Lumix LX100 on its own.
In addition, the Lumix LX100 has features that the Lumix DMC-GX7 can’t match: in-camera raw processing, depth-by-defocus focusing, 4K video, 11fps burst shooting, for example. It also has the features that make the Lumix DMC-GX7 an attractive camera to serious enthusiasts, such as Highlight Shadow curve adjustments, silent shooting mode, pinpoint AF, focus peaking and a level gauge.
|The Lumix G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 sports an aperture dial and a $1600 price tag.|
To become the proud owner of nine aperture blades the Lumix DMC-GX7 owner needs to buy the F1.2 Nocticron, which costs a third again the price of the Lumix LX100. The Vario-Summilux of the Lumix LX100 has nine blades included in the price.
How much is it worth to have a clicky aperture dial around a lens on a compact camera? Some people couldn’t care less, but plenty of others will value this feature of the Lumix LX100 very highly – not to mention the traditional top plate controls for exposure compensation and shutter speed adjustment. Again, you have to go to the $1600/£1200 Nocticron to find clicky apertures on an AF lens for the Micro Four Thirds system, let alone one that does it in 1/3 stop increments.
And the lens doesn't even come off
The downsides of the Lumix LX100 compared to the Lumix DMC-GX7 might be that the camera doesn’t use the whole sensor for image recording - the same device that produces 16-million-pixel images in the Lumix DMC-GX7 can only manage 12.7-million in the Lumix LX100. Astonishingly, Panasonic’s signature touch screen functions are simply not present in this model – so the AF point has to be toggled across the frame instead of the instantaneous magic touch AF in the Lumix DMC-GX7.
|The LX100 uses a multi-aspect sensor, affording some creative composition opportunities, but reducing the sensor's maximum resolution output to about 12.7MP.|
And the lens doesn’t come off! Perhaps though, when you have a lens with the specification that this Leica Vario Summilux has – F1.7 at 24mm and F2.8 at 75mm, for starters – you mightn’t feel the need to take it off. It certainly is a much more interesting and creatively useful lens than any of Panasonic’s G series kit lenses, on paper and from the short time I had with a preproduction model at least. With a nine-bladed iris it promises delightful bokeh, and those wide apertures suggest an ability to isolate a subject from its background with the look of a system camera. With Power O.I.S as well, experience tells me that I’ll should be able to handhold the camera with shutter speeds at least three stops longer than would otherwise be safe.
The longer I look at the Lumix LX100 the more convinced I become that the time hasn’t yet arrived when we no longer need the advanced compact. This model does still meet a lot of needs that the G series, and CSCs in general, can’t satisfy. It offers most of the important elements of an interchangeable lens camera designed for decent photographers, but maintains a scale that allows it to fit into pockets and bags that would not hold a Lumix DMC-GX7. The matching of lens and sensor into a single fixed unit has allowed a specification that exceeded what could be managed in an interchangeable unit, and which can be done for a fraction of the cost.
At $899 / £799 the Lumix LX100 is undoubtedly a high-priced compact, but it does still offer good value when compared to the Lumix DMC-GX7 when all is taken into account. As for how much we’ll miss those 3.2 million pixels, though, for that we’ll have to wait and see.
Damien Demolder is a senior contributing writer for DPReview and the former editor of Amateur Photographer Magazine, the world's oldest weekly photographic publication. www.damiendemolder.com
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
|Hot Air Balloons Over Bagan by User9320321874|
|Yellow Warbler by LeeS|
from A Big Year - birds
|Waiting for the Parade by tcoker1103|
from - La Vida Loca - (Black and White Street Photography+ A Border)
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not known as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you know where to look. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.
Tamron has announced the longest all-in-one zoom lens currently available, the 18-400mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD. Designed for Canon and Nikon crop-sensor cameras, the lens will be available in July.
When you're ready to step-up to full-frame from an entry-level or midrange camera, the choices can be overwhelming. Find out which models came out on top in our $1200-2000 enthusiast ILC roundup.
Just a guy wearing a VR headset, smashing invisible Goombas in Central Park.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this gorgeous aerial photo of the Martian landscape. And if you look really close, you can actually see the Mars Curiosity rover in the very middle.
The city of Laguna Beach, California has provided some clarification around the kinds of photography permits it offers.
Later this year, a VR180 camera will be Joining Yi's Halo and 360 VR cameras, which will offer stereo 3D capture, yet be as easy to use and compact as a 2D camera.
Caltech researchers have developed an 'optical phased array' chip that uses time delays instead of a lens to focus the incoming light.
Pricing and shipping have finally been revealed for two highly anticipated lenses from Sigma, announced in February.
These macro photos of clouds of paint billowing through clear water might look like high-quality CGI, but they're real photographs. And photographer Alberto Seveso told us how they were made.
Facebook is testing a feature that prevents people from saving, sharing, or even taking a screenshot of your profile picture.
We've reshot the Sony a9 in our studio. The short story: it's sharper! The long story... well you can read it all here.
The collection will be officially launched during the Europeana Transcribathon Campus Berlin 2017 crowdsourcing event which will be held on 22 and 23 June at the Berlin State Library.
Light gives us some insight into the preparations for the launch of the pre-order shipments of its much anticipated L16 multi-lens camera.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has confirmed in a tweet that the second lens on the back of the OnePlus 5 uses a 1.6x optical zoom and that digital zoom is used to reach the claimed 2x zoom factor.
Fujifilm recently unveiled the second in its series of affordable cine lenses, the MK50-135mm T2.9. We got our hands on it for a couple days and took it for a spin.
Leica's first attempt at an M-series digital rangefinder was rough around the edges, but set a pattern for all of the cameras that came after it. In this week's Throwback Thursday article, Barney remembers the M8.
No stranger to extreme situations, legendary climber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin talks to Outside Magazine about his career, and the challenge of filming Alex Honnold's rope-free solo climb of El Capitain.
A company backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin is attempting to make video conferencing less terrible.
Rangefinder magazine asked five professional portrait and wedding photographers about posting on Instagram; no surprise, they got five different answers.
This captivating stop motion film was created by stripping away one layer of wood at a time. It's hard to look away.
It will enable users to simulate the presence of the sun, moon and Milky Way and see how they interact with an area's topography.