Overall conclusion

By Richard Butler

The LX100 may build on the reputation built-up by previous LX models but its ambitions are much greater. Rather than trying to compete with other enthusiast compacts, the LX100 has aimed directly for the top spot. It's not the zoom compact with the biggest sensor (that would be Canon's G1 X Mark II), but its bright lens should, in theory, counteract that. Only the potentially limiting 24-75mm equivalent range stops it looking like the standout king of specifications.

It's is a big camera, compared to any other compact and we certainly wouldn't call it pocketable. However, it's smaller that any interchangeable lens camera with the same zoom range and effective brightness and it offers a level of direct control you won't find on many other cameras.

Then there are the camera's video capabilities - the LX100 can shoot 4K (UHD) video in 30 or 24p (or 25 and 24p if you buy it in Europe). But how good a job has Panasonic done, in terms of turning such promising specifications into a well-rounded, usable camera?

Pros

  • Excellent stills image quality - especially in Raw
  • Unsurpassed combination of large sensor and bright lens
  • Impressive and usable video capabilities
  • Comprehensive and well-designed direct controls (with good customization options)
  • Fast, responsive behavior
  • Classic looks and handling provide gratifying user experience
  • Packed with features (4K Photo, Stop Motion Animation, Time Lapse)
  • Extensive Wi-Fi options
  • Image stabilization effectively stabilizes stills (less useful for video)

Cons

  • JPEG noise reduction and sharpening are rather crude at low ISOs
  • Lens range can be limiting
  • 12MP may not be enough for some users
  • Manually positioning an AF point is awkward (and workaround limits customization choices)
  • Focus peaking often too subtle to see
  • Separate clip-on flash simply inconvenient
  • Lack of ND filter usually means external filters are needed for outdoor video
  • Electronic viewfinder contrast and color benefit from adjustment
  • Viewfinder can show 'tearing' effect, which will distract some users
  • Noticeable lag switching from shooting mode to playback (even with a fast SD card)
  • Filter and iA buttons on top plate poorly used and not customizable

Image Quality

The LX100's image quality is amongst the best we've ever seen from a compact. The JPEG engine benefits from a little tweaking and, even after reducing noise reduction and sharpening, still might not always produce images to everyone's tastes (though we've been pretty happy with the results).

The JPEGs won't be to everyone's tastes but I was pretty happy with the results I got out of the camera. This is a from-camera JPEG shot in evening sunshine with saturation set to +2.

However, the key thing is that, despite its ambitious design, the lens performs well across most focal lengths and apertures, and the sensor performance means the camera is able to lives up to the expectations its spec sheet sets. Taken together, this means the LX100 will continue to offer excellent image quality in a broad range of shooting conditions.

In Raw the LX100 will comfortably match its high-end rivals (the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G7 X), gleefully trump what should be its closest competitor (the G1 X II) and delight in rendering the rest of the enthusiast compact crowd irrelevant. That's not enough to gain it honorary membership of the prime-lens, APS-C club but it narrows the gap like never before.

Handling

The LX100 has some of the best and most extensive controls of any compact camera, with direct controls for most key parameters and plenty of customization to access the modes and features you want to use. For most shooting situations, if the camera doesn't have a dedicated control, you can configure it to be straight-forward to use. Overall it's a pleasant camera to take control over - not just when compared to other enthusiast compacts, but by any standards.

I was frustrated that the 'Filter' button on the camera's top plate can't be reassigned, but that doesn't mean I didn't like any of the processing effects the camera can offer. This is 'Dramatic Mono' and does a good job of living up to that title.

It's not entirely beyond reproach, though. Manually positioning the AF point is disappointingly fiddly and you quickly run out of customizable buttons if you try to fix this by re-dedicating the four-way controller. It's unquestionably a camera that would benefit from a touch screen. There are few quirks that can't be worked-round in an acceptable way.

We're pleased to see the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder, though it's a long way from being the best we've encountered. Its color rendition and contrast are dramatically different from the rear LCD and the field-sequential design can produce a rainbow-like tearing effect that some people find distracting. It's invaluable in bright light, though, and allows the use of a stable to-the-eye shooting stance. Not everyone was delighted to find that the camera's flash is a separate, non-adjustable block that lives in a drawstring pouch, though the provision of a hotshoe does at least give you options, if you regularly like to strobe.

The Final Word

It should be apparent that we really liked the LX100. It's not a small camera, but it's not that much bigger than the likes of the Canon PowerShot G12, which people happily carried around. And, importantly, it offers significantly better image quality than pretty much any zoom compact ever made. It's not a camera entirely without flaws but most of them are so minor that it's unlikely they'll ever be more than slight irritations about a camera you'll love.

Other than size, it's the camera's zoom range that stops it being the ideal camera for a majority of dedicated photographers. I did find the 24-75mm equivalent range a touch restrictive, but it's the only major concern I had: my overall experience has been much more about what the camera can do than what it can't. The LX100 is a pleasure to use and offers superb image quality. I'd consider it one of the best photographers' cameras on the market and probably the best zoom compact ever made.

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-LX100
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
The LX100 is a very specific tool - a usefully small camera with an impressively bright lens and good sized sensor. Its short zoom and low pixel count will limit its appeal but dependable image quality and excellent hands-on controls make this one of the best zoom compacts we've ever tested.
Good for
Keen photographers looking for a no-compromise second camera. Someone looking for an engaging and flexible photographic tool.
Not so good for
Anyone looking for a pocketable compact camera. Someone planning to stay in Auto mode.
85%
Overall score

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