What's new and how it compares

Mark II on the left, Mark I on the right

The LX100 II is the first camera that Panasonic has widely marketed as a 'Mark II' variant of an existing product and that gives an indication of how much has changed. There are minor tweaks and improvements that will be meaningful to many users, but it still shares a lot with its immediate predecessor.

Key takeaways:

  • New sensor and processor from the GX9 give extra resolution, better JPEG color
  • Touchscreen allows for Touchpad AF and extra 'soft' function buttons on the side of the screen
  • 4K video comes with a crop, limiting wide-angle shooting and noise performance
  • Always-connected Bluetooth speeds up image transfer
  • Greater button customization
  • Includes 4K photo modes like Post Focus and Sequence Composition

Multi Aspect sensor and updated processor

The biggest changes are to the sensor and processor. Panasonic's multi-aspect design dates back to 2008's LX3: it uses different crops from its sensor to offer a range of aspect ratios that maintain the same diagonal angle of view, meaning that you don't lose your wide-angle capability just because you've switched to 16:9.

The LX100 II uses the same 20MP CMOS sensor as the DC-GX9 though the multi-aspect design means you only ever get to use up to a 17MP, 187 mm2 crop of it (the full sensor area of 4/3 is 225mm2). The sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, which is likely to mean a slight rise in sharpness at the expense of a greater risk of aliasing (depending on how sharp the lens is).

The prominently placed multi-aspect switch encourages creative experimentation.

Unfortunately, there is a downside of this system in that you never get to use the full sensor region, so don't quite get the full image quality potential of the sensor you've paid for. The diagram above shows how little goes unused though. We've tended to find the creative opportunities offered by the multi-aspect design (and the prompt of its prominently-placed switch) make up for this slight limitation.

The LX100 II also gets the processor from the GX9, which means improved JPEG color and sharpening as well as a redesigned menu system.

Touchscreen

Mark II on the left, Mark I on the right

Another big change is the inclusion of a touchscreen (3" in size, with 1.24 million dots). It uses the same touchscreen interface that Panasonic has honed over the past eight years.

The stand-out feature (which Panasonic pioneered) is Touchpad AF, which lets you position the AF point using the LCD while your eye is to the finder. Users have the choice of relative positioning (like a trackpad on a laptop) or absolute (touch the exact area on which to focus). You cannot, however, limit the active area to one portion of the screen, to restrict it to a region your finger can reach (or where your nose can't).

There's also a touch-friendly, customizable version of the camera's Q.Menu available.

The addition of the touchscreen also adds five customizable 'soft buttons' to the LX100 II, which adds up to 10 total customizable buttons. However you use it, though, we suspect most LX100 users will appreciate the ability to select an AF point much faster than on the old model.

Video

Sadly the use of the GX9's processor, rather than the more powerful chip from Panasonic's higher-end G9 and GH5 models means the LX100 II doesn't make nearly such good use of its sensor in video mode.

The 1.34x crop means you effectively use a sensor region fractionally smaller than the
1"-type chip in Sony's RX100 V

Like the GX9, the LX100 II crops-in to a 3840 x 2160 region of its sensor: a 1.34x crop, compared with the region it uses for 16:9 images. This has a number of downsides: it means you get a relatively zoomed-in ~32mm equivalent field of view, even at the lens's widest setting. But it also means you effectively use a 12.8 x 7.2mm sensor region: a fraction smaller than the 1" type chip in Sony's RX100 V.

Other changes

The Mark II gains Bluetooth, which allows the camera to stay connected to a smart device without demanding too much battery power from either. Maintaining this connection speeds up the process of establishing a full Wi-Fi connection for image transfer. As before there's the option to re-process Raw files in the camera if you want to adjust settings such as color mode or white balance before sharing.

A change we would have liked to see was the addition of a microphone port, but one didn't make it into the LX100 II.

And, while the camera's body is a match for the original LX100, the Mark II lets you customize more of the buttons, which should make it easier to set up to suit your shooting style.

The move to a newer processor sees the LX100 II gain all the additional multi-shot modes that Panasonic has developed since the original camera was launched. This means it now offers Post Focus and Focus Stacking modes, focus and aperture bracketing, along with the Auto Marking and Sequence Composition features in 4K Photo mode.

Post Focus and Focus Stacking

Post Focus and Focus Stacking are features that sound gimmicky but are genuinely useful. The LX100 II shoots video footage while scanning across its focus range. It then lets you select either a specific point on which to focus (Post Focus), which chooses the frame focused at the chosen distance, or combines the sharpest elements of multiple images to bring the entire scene in focus ('Focus Stacking').

Since the results are only 8MP they won't look as good as a 'regular' still image, but Post Focus especially can rescue a macro shot that's slightly front- or back-focused.

Focused on the glass Focused on the ketchup bottle Focused on Dan

Auto Marking and Sequence Composition

Auto Marking looks at a sequence of photos taken in 4K Photo mode and picks out the frame or frames that are the 'most different' from the others, assuming that something interesting has happened at those points. You can jump to those marked frames without having the flip through all of the photos.

Sequence Composition lets you select frames from a 4K burst and combine them into a single image, as shown below. The interface is simple and the results are generally good, even if all you have to photograph is a bearded man on a small skateboard.

Unfortunately, all of these 4K photo modes suffer from the same crop that you get while recording regular 4K video, with all the image quality and field-of-view limitations described above.

How it compares

Mark II on the left, Mark I on the right

The LX100 II may not add much over its predecessor but it still ends up looking pretty competitive against current offerings from other manufacturers.

Panasonic LX100 II Canon G1 X III Sony RX100 V(A)
MSRP $999 $1299 $899
Pixel count 17MP 24MP 20MP
Sensor area (sq mm) 187 332 116
Zoom range (equiv.) 24-75mm 24-72mm 24-70mm
Aperture range F1.7-2.8 F2.8-5.6 F1.8-2.8
Viewfinder resolution 2.76M-dot equiv (920k dots, field sequential) 2.36M-dot 2.36M-dot
Viewfinder mag 0.7x Unspecified 0.59x
Rear LCD res 1.24M-dot
fixed
1.04M-dot
Fully articulated
1.23M-dot
Tilting
Touchscreen? Yes Yes No
Battery life 300 shots 200 shots 220 shots
Dimensions 115 x 66 x 64mm 115 x 78 x 51mm 102 x 58 x 41mm
Weight 392 g 399 g 299 g

In part this continued competitiveness is helped by the rest of the market drifting closer to the same concept: the Canon G1 X III arguably has as much in common with the LX100 as it does with the original G1 X and, though it's a smaller camera, the RX100 V makes the same decision to go with a short but fast zoom lens.

The large sensor and bright maximum aperture combine to give a camera with a bright lens in equivalent terms, which gives a good idea of low light performance and the amount of control given over depth-of-field. Like the Mark I, the new camera gives no control over the zoom speed, though, so it takes a while to turn on, as the lens has to extend first.

One obvious shortcoming of the LX100 II's spec is the continued use of a field sequential viewfinder (which is why the resolution is quoted as being "equivalent to" 2.76M dots). These viewfinders display their red, green and blue components in rapid succession, which is perceived as a full color rendering.

While any viewfinder is better than none, we wish Panasonic would have updated the unit on the LX100 II.

However, if you blink or something on the screen changes while the display is switching between colors, a 'tearing' effect becomes visible. Different people are bothered to different degrees by this but we much prefer the OLED panels that display all three colors simultaneously.