Pros

  • Excellent still image quality, especially in Raw
  • Impressive 4K video
  • 24-72mm equiv F1.4-2.8 lens covers a useful range
  • Fast, responsive behavior
  • Depth from Defocus AF system results in good depth and subject tracking
  • Excellent touch interface and implementation
  • Customizable interface, including physical buttons and touchscreen
  • Image stabilization is useful especially when shooting hand held video
  • USB charging is handy

Cons

  • No electronic viewfinder
  • Aggressive noise reduction at default settings
  • Small buffer limits Raw bursts
  • Dials not customizable per-mode; means top dial does nothing in Aperture Priority
  • Front dial around the lens is click-less and very easy to nudge
  • Lens hits F2.8 by 31mm equiv.
  • Unsophisticated Auto ISO reticent to use high ISO to prevent blur, with no customizable minimum shutter speed thresholds
  • AF in video not well damped and results in distracting hunting
  • Image stabilization in 1080p video poor compared to peers
  • No Auto ISO in video mode
  • No exposure compensation in Manual mode when using Auto ISO
  • Lack of ND filter makes it difficult to use slow shutter speeds in video
  • Slippery body design
  • Some video-relevant menu options disappear in video mode
  • Having an aperture ring with a variable aperture zoom potentially confusing
  • Lack of external charger makes it awkward to keep a second battery charged

Overall Conclusion

High-end pocket cameras like the LX10 are great for street photography. I especially liked using the flip-up touschreen to pick my point of focus and frame. ISO 250, 1/1000 sec at F6.3. Shot using the 'Monochrome' photo style. Photo by Dan Bracaglia

The Panasonic 'LX' line has long been associated with high-end compact cameras. The LX10 continues the tradition of premium pocketability started by the Panasonic LX1 in 2005 with 2016's capability. It's lost a couple of the features LX series users loved (the LX3, 5 and 7's hotshoe and the aspect ratio switch common to all models), but it brings large chunks of LX lineage into an RX100-esque format.

The LX10 appears to aim for a similar position in the market as Sony's RX100 Mark III and Canon's G7 X Mark II: expensive for a compact but not as 'cost-no-object' as the RX100 V. It lacks the RX Mk III's viewfinder but, like the Canon, offers more in the way of hands-on controls. And, unlike either rival, gains 4K video and a level of focus capability that you don't get until you pay more for the RX100 Mark IV.

Has Panasonic found the perfect recipe with this particular set of ingredients, and is it to our taste?

Handling

Some aspects of the LX10's handling have us feeling blue. ISO 3200, 1/80 sec, F2.8. Photo by Dan Bracaglia

The LX10 handles not entirely unlike a wet bar of soap. There is no rubber/textured grip of any kind (a problem with many compacts in this class). For best results and any sort of longevity, we'd suggest using a wrist strap when shooting with it. This saved us from several close calls. Small cameras often have small buttons, which is the case with the LX10. Three of them are customizable, though you'll probably want to leave one button set to call up the Q.Menu (which can itself be customized via a simple touch interface).

The LX10 has three control dials but they're not used to their full potential. The operation is questionable at best and incredibly frustrating at its worst: an aperture ring with F-number markings on a variable aperture camera makes no sense, nor does the fact that the main top dial defaults to controlling nothing when shooting in Aperture Priority mode. If you customize it to do something else, you lose all control of shutter speed altogether in M and S modes, essentially breaking the camera. And while we had high hopes for the front-most dial along the lens, it is click-less and incredibly easy to nudge.

Also frustrating is Panasonic's prehistoric Auto ISO implementation: it cannot be used in manual video mode, exposure compensation is unavailable when shooting stills in M mode with Auto ISO, and you can not set a minimum Auto ISO shutter speed. Worse, the camera is reticent to use ISOs higher than 1600, even when you set the upper limit to 12,800 - potentially yielding subject blur due to slow shutter speeds. Come on Panasonic!

Thankfully, not all aspects of the camera's handling are questionable: in classic Panasonic fashion, the touchscreen is extremely responsive and logically implemented. Users can assign certain functions to spots on the side of the screen. And we consider the camera's Custom modes (C1-C3) to be best-practice: you can instantly switch all settings of the camera, from button/dial customization to exposure mode, by switching C mode with two button presses. This is particularly useful when switching from stills to video, as the set of features you want direct access to, exposure modes, AF mode, etc. often all change when switching between these styles of shooting. 

Autofocus and Performance

Performance-wise the LX10 is overall very responsive: quick to start up and operate, with one of the industry's most responsive touchscreens. While it's quick to clear its buffer when shooting JPEG with a fast SD card, Raw bursts are limited to only around a second - or 6-9 shots.

The LX10 uses Panasonic's Depth From Defocus (DFD) which results in downright impressive autofocus. The LX10 is incredibly good at subject recognition and tracking: tap on a subject or face and you'll be surprised by how well the LX10 keeps it in focus no matter it moves to within the frame (if you don't specify, it'll select the nearest subject). Thanks to DFD, the LX10 quickly refocuses on your subject in a manner that would put its Canon peers to shame, even when shooting a burst at 6 fps (its top speed with AF-C). In comparison, Canon's comparable G7X II will rarely even refocus on a fast moving subject fast enough for a single shot, much less a burst (where it won't track your subject around the frame at all).

The LX10 is only outclassed with respect to AF by the Sony RX100 V, which will identify and refocus on subjects with class-leading speed and accuracy. Furthermore, the LX10 can sometimes be inaccurate in focus on moving subjects, overshooting and misfocusing in continuous AF due to DFD's required lens wobbling. But compared to Sony's offerings, it's worth noting that the LX10 makes it far easier to specify your subject by simply tapping on it, a feature all Sony cameras lack. The moral of the story? If you wish to take some control over the camera, get the LX10, but if you wish to use your camera as a point-and-shoot: get the RX100 IV/V, if your budget will stretch.

Image Quality

In good light, JPEG's look just fine. But as you crank your ISO, default noise reduction is noticeably over-aggressive. ISO 125, 1/800 sec at F5. Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Raw performance from the LX10 is excellent and, as you might expect, the Raw performance is nearly identical to other 20MP 1"-sensors we've tested. The lens seems pretty good, too, even at wide angle, though our copy exhibits exactly the sort of inconsistency that's common in this type of camera.

We're still not totally sold on Panasonic's JPEG color and also tend to find ourselves turning down the rather aggressive noise reduction (whose context-sensitive nature appears slightly less clever than it thinks). Overall, though, the image quality is really rather good, especially if you take the time to process from Raw.

Video

Capable of 4K video capture in both 24p and 30p (the LX15 also offers 25p), users also have the option to shoot 1080 in up to 60p. 4K capture comes with a crop factor though and the equivalent focal length when shooting UHD is 36-108mm equiv. Video tools include zebras for monitoring exposure and focus but there are no Cinelike D and Cinelike V color profiles, so you may need to hack around with one of the stills color modes to get the result you want. Sadly, the lack of a ND filter means it's often impossible to achieve slower shutter speeds in video without stopping down.

Autofocus in video, while incredibly simple to use (just tap to rack focus or start tracking your subject), is of questionable utility because the 'flutter' introduced by the DFD algorithms is incredibly distracting and makes footage appear soft. It's less objectionable in 4K because the hunt is slowed down, but refocusing performance isn't as controlled and smooth as some of its peers.

Video quality is impressive in both 4K and 1080p: the 4K footage isn't far off the results of its more expensive Sony rivals, though the crop means it's likely to fall behind in low light and dynamic range performance. The in body image stabilization is useful for standing and hand-holding video but can't match the glidecam-like digital stabilization of its immediate peers (in 1080) if you want to walk or move with the camera.

The Final Word

The LX10 is an interesting addition to the 1"-type enthusiast camera market. Its balance of stills and video features, along with its extensive range of external controls (both in terms of dials and touchscreen) make it look extremely promising. Sadly the camera doesn't fully deliver on this promise.

Image quality is very good but its JPEGs don't have the attractive color of the Canon or the sophisticated sharpening and noise reduction (read: detailed JPEGs) of its RX100 peers. The lens can't match the Canon's reach but is more consistent in performance across its range, much like the latest RX100 models. 4K video is very good but the significant sensor crop limits its usage. 1080 is good, but not as rock-steady stabilized as its peers.

Overall, though, the LX10's greatest let-down is its handling. It looks like it's going to offer extensive hands-on control but never quite delivers the rapid, seamless experience you might want. Conversely, though, we were hugely impressed by the LX10's autofocus, which is as easy to use as it is effective.

In every respect, the LX10 is competitive with its peers, so if its balance of features appeals to you, we'd recommend it, but it doesn't quite excel to the degree it looks like it should.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 (Lumix DMC-LX15)
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Optics
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
A 1"-type sensor, excellent autofocus and solid 4K video make the LX10/LX15 Panasonic's most capable pocket camera yet. The ergonomics aren't all we were hoping but a good degree of customization and a responsive touchscreen make it quick and easy to use.
Good for
Enthusiast photographers who can live without a viewfinder.
Not so good for
JPEG-only shooters. Anyone needing significant zoom reach.
81%
Overall score

Sample gallery

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 Samples Photos

47 images • Posted on Nov 11, 2016 • View album
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