Autofocus and video

Out-of-camera JPEG
ISO 6400 | 1/60 sec | F2.8 | Built-in lens @ 75mm equiv

Key Takeaways:

  • Autofocus works well for stills, with both tracking and face detecting being reliable and reasonably fast, even when shooting indoors.
  • Video quality is very good but the additional crop has negative implications for usability as well as low-light performance
  • Video AF is good but overall the LX100 II is better for grabbing clips than for serious creative shooting.

Autofocus

The LX100 II uses essentially the same AF system as Panasonic's G-series Micro Four Thirds cameras. There are six AF area modes:

  • Face/Eye Detection
  • Tracking
  • 49-Area (all area)
  • Custom Multi
  • 1-Area
  • Pinpoint

The camera uses the company's depth-from-defocus concept: testing how focus changes and understanding the out-of-focus characteristics of the lens to quickly build a depth-map of the scene, so that the lens can be quickly driven near to the point of correct focus. In Single AF it works extremely well, responding quickly and giving perfect precision, but in Continuous AF it constantly flutters, seemingly terrified that the subject might have moved since it last checked.

That said, this method gives a decent level of success and the camera's subject tracking is very good at subject recognition. Face/Eye Detection does pretty well at identifying faces, though, like many systems, wasn't reliable if Jeff wore his glasses. Once identified, it does a good job of following its target as they move around the scene, even in the low indoor lighting of our test.

Video

The LX100 II can shoot 4K video from a further 1.34x crop of the camera's sensor: a native 3840 x 2160 pixel region. This crop means the lens gives a 32-100mm equivalent range. It also means the camera ends up using a slightly smaller sensor region than a 1"-type sensor offers, meaning it loses any low-light benefit it would otherwise offer over its immediate rivals. The use of native: one-capture-pixel to one-output-pixel sampling also means it can't match the level of detail achieved by the likes of the Sony RX100 V, which over-samples the scene to provide its 4K video. It's still pretty impressive, though.

In terms of operation, the LX100 II is held back by not offering a dedicated video mode. Video capture is initiated by pressing the [Rec] button on the back of the camera, but because there's no way of entering the cropped video mode in advance. You need to enter a preview mode in the custom menu to know that the crop is going to look like, before you shoot.

Despite being essentially based on contrast detection, movie AF is pretty sure-footed, smoothly pulling focus to whatever's under the current AF point (though there's no way to control the speed). Continuous AF with tracking (the biggest AF challenge) does pretty well, doing a good job of subject recognition and doing a good job of maintaining focus without too much distracting adjustment. It can lose the subject and have to hunt occasionally, though, so isn't 100% dependable.

The final, minor disappointment is that the LX100 II doesn't give you any control over the speed at which the AF is driven, so it can't be set to slowly pull focus between subjects. By this point it should be clear that the camera is better at grabbing clips, rather than acting as a creative video tool.