A Handy Little Camera

Started Oct 9, 2011 | User reviews
G Davidson Regular Member • Posts: 166
A Handy Little Camera

Not many fully-featured cameras are small enough to take wherever you want with you. With Micro 4/3 starting to get their pancake zooms and the Nikon 1 series, this might be about to change, but for now the likes of the LX5 are here.

The LX5 is a very capable camera, especially for it’s size, offering unusual speed and low-light capability as compacts go. Having such a bright lens, even reasonably so at the long end (f/2-3.3) and decent high ISO up to 400, in a pinch maybe 640, raw files and an excellent 18mm wide adapter makes for a sophisticated little machine. You can get some excellent photo quality from the sharp lens and even if the length is restricted, at 90 vs 60, it’s a bit better here than the LX3 and the wide angle is more than usual on such cameras, starting at 24mm. Having features like the step zoom, auto memory of zoom and great bracketing help a lot with creative uses of it. On paper, it’s the perfect little camera.

In use it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations, for me at least. I personally find the small, plasticy controls a bit fiddly to use, often needing to delve into the menus for other commands. I also don’t find it as intuitive to use as my DSLRs, or a simple point and shoot, even after a year or so on having it, which suggests there is still a gap in the market for anyone who can make a better alternative for photographers. The ability to customize the function button helps a bit here, as does the dedicated ISO control and others. Coming from a DSLR, using the same control wheel for aperture and exposure compensation is annoying; a second control dial would be helpful. Also, the LCD screen is subpar, as is the low resolution EVF available, though some users find this very handy anyway, which means you won’t really know what you’ve shot until you have a computer in front of you. Another issue is the depth of field- even on low settings, due to the small sensor, just about everything is in focus unless you go really, really close to things, which makes it less interesting for portraits than I’d like.

It is great to have such a sensitive machine, virtually being pocketable. Yet the ergonomics make me think a small M4/3 camera would be preferable. Until they make an attractive one with built in EVF, this helps me sit on the fence reasonably comfortably. get used to the quirks and you have a fine little photo-taking machine.
As a side-note, I use this along with the TZ7 when I want to travel light and not miss a shot. This comes out whenever the light dims, or for wide-angle, as the quality is so much better and then when I want to I can zoom into 300mm with the TZ7.

I think overall this is a nice little machine, but I wonder how long it can keep it’s head above water with mirror-less developing and increasing competition from similar cameras from Olympus for one. It’s unique features of having 24mm on the wide end and switchable aspect ratios don’t really make up for the lack of a second control dial and the fiddly nature of the one it has. Panasonic seems to have a habit of packing in features and forgetting how real photographers might want to access them comfortably. This makes this a less than perfect camera, but at it’s price point and size, certainly one of the best ones out there right now.

So now for Pros and Cons

Pros

Very sharp, bright lens, especially at wide angles (ranging 2.0-3.3)
24mm start
Fast operation and AF thanks to Venus Engine Full HD (which perhaps will even improve in firmware 2.0)
Fully-featured enthusiast model, including hotshoe, bracketing, various controls.
Excellent wide angle adapter giving a rare (in the world of compacts) 18mm equivalent
Rubber grip makes handholding easy
Power OIS works well
Very good 720p video even in low light
Step zoom makes it easy to fix an angle of view and stick with it, like using a prime lens
Small and light, yet fully featured controls (though see below for caveat), make for a great backup for anyone who wants a small, bright, wide portable lens.
Decently fast writing of Raw files

Problems:

Poor high ISO above 400, which itself is pushing things
Short lens compared to the competition (90mm vs 112mm and beyond)
No small external flash available makes the hot-shoe somewhat redundant
No EVF and the available one very low resolution
Poor LCD display (though perhaps the firmware update will help here)
Fiddly controls
Only one control dial (and a small one at that)
No 1080p video
Mono audio and no provision for external mics
Dated, unattractive interface operated by button rather than scroll wheel makes finding the settings you want a chore more than a pleasure
Not looking so good with competing cameras offering brighter lenses and more photographic controls.
Sometimes gives unnatural colours, especially for skies, which seems to be a Panasonic issue generally
Jpeg engine gives worse results than competition, this is essentially a Raw camera for many.

 G Davidson's gear list:G Davidson's gear list
Nikon D610
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
10 megapixels • 3 screen • 24 – 90 mm (3.8×)
Announced: Jul 21, 2010
G Davidson's score
4.0
Average community score
4.3
bad for good for
Kids / pets
unrated
Action / sports
weak
Landscapes / scenery
great
Portraits
good
Low light (without flash)
okay
Flash photography (social)
unrated
Studio / still life
great
= community average
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