Why I'm delighted to see an LX100 II
|The LX100 II with accessory flash.|
It's become something of a running joke that whenever Panasonic visits, they say they'll see us soon and I tell them I hope it'll be to show us an LX200. In fact, on their last visit I changed my phrasing to 'don't come back unless it's an LX200.'
Well, they haven't brought an LX200 yet, but on their most recent visit they brought an LX100 II, and that's good enough for me.
Why do I like the LX100 concept so much? Because I enjoy the process of taking photos. I like playing with settings. I like feeling involved. One of my colleagues referred to the LX100 as almost being a Fujifilm X100 with a zoom, and I think they're exactly right. Despite their very similar control layouts, I'd not spotted the comparison partly, I think, because the hybrid viewfinder and fixed 35mm equiv lens make up so much of my conception of the X100, but also because the LX100 is noticeably smaller.
Compact means compact
A small camera can be great, but smaller isn't always better. I've always been impressed with Sony's RX100 series, but I've still yet to truly enjoy shooting with one, because it always takes me a moment to remember how to change the settings, no matter how much I've tried to customize it. There's also the feedback-free clickless dial that I still just can't love.
While keeping the size down has meant limiting the zoom range, Panasonic has done a good job of keeping it bright
Some people would argue that there's no room to fit a good level of control on an RX100: people who've clearly never used an Olympus XZ-2. But I'll accept that a slightly larger camera provides room for improved ergonomics and more direct control.
The Goldilocks camera
For me, the LX100 strikes a good balance. It's big enough to offer plenty of control while, unlike Canon's G1X II or the X100, still being small enough to be easy to keep with me.
For instance, the LX100 II has enough space for an aspect ratio switch. Right back to the LX3, where I first encountered it, I've always been struck by the way that having a visible, dedicated aspect ratio control makes me think about which format is the best match for each photo I take. Especially given the degree I've been shooting for Instagram recently, I'm looking forward to being given back that extra reminder to think outside the 3:2-shaped box.
I suspect not trying to make the camera truly pocketable is also the reason Panasonic has been able to build a lens that can support a filter thread. That small detail is enough to allow the attachment of a neutral density filter or a variable ND, to let you shoot video at sensible shutter speeds without having to constantly stop down.
And, while keeping the size down has meant limiting the zoom range, Panasonic has done a good job of keeping it bright. It's telling to compare the maximum aperture range of the LX100 to that of Canon's G1X III. Even if you take into account that the Panasonic only ever uses cropped regions of a Four Thirds sensor, it has a brighter equivalent aperture across its entire lens range. This should mean better low-light performance as well as giving a little more control over depth-of-field than the Canon.
So, do I already love the Mark II?
Does the Mark II update do enough to keep itself relevant, four years after the original? We'll have to wait until we get hold of a production sample before we can address that question. I'll confess I'm a little disappointed that it gets the GX9's processor, not the more powerful chip that lets the G9 offer full-width 4K, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who'll see the LX100 as a stills-shooter's camera and simply not care.
I suspect going back to shooting with a 24-75mm equivalent zoom is going to be a bit of a shock, having gotten used to the longer lenses offered by the likes of the RX100 VI, but, as I say, it's all a question of balance.
Still, I do rather wish Panasonic had called it the LX200, if only to avoid adding to the world another camera with 'X100' in its name.
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