Operation and controls

The LX100's controls have as much in common with the Fujifilm X100 or a classic Leica as they do with the previous LX series cameras, with both aperture and shutter speed primarily being set using dedicated control dials. As with the earliest auto-exposure cameras, there are 'A' settings on each, to allow the camera to take control of the settings.

 
Exposure Mode Shutter Speed Dial Aperture Ring
Program Mode
A
A
Shutter Priority
Shutter speed specified
A
Aperture Priority
A
F-number specified
Manual Mode
Shutter speed specified
F-number specified

In addition, the LX100 continues to offer the on-lens switches for focus mode (AF, Macro and MF) and for aspect ratio (4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 3:2), giving quick access to both features.

The camera also offers three customizable buttons on the rear plate of the camera. These can be made to control any of 38 functions.

Functions that can be applied to the LX100's function buttons
 • LVF/Monitor Switch
 • AF/AE Lock
 • AF-On
 • Preview
 • Level Gauge
 • Focus Area Set
 • Cursor Button Lock
 • Photo Style
 • Picture Size
 • Quality
 • AFS/AFF/AFC
 • Metering Mode
 • Highlight Shadow
 • i.Dynamic
 • i.Resolution
 • HDR
 • Shutter Type
 • Flash Mode
 • Flash Adjust
 • i.Zoom
 • Digital Zoom
 • Stabilizer
 • 4K Photo
 • Motion Pic. Set
 • Picture Mode
 • Utilize Custom Set feature
 • Silent Mode
 • Peaking
 • Histogram
 • Guide Line
 • Zebra Pattern
 • Monochrome Live View
 • Rec Area
 • Zoom lever
 • Sensitivity
 • White Balance
 • AF Mode/MF
 • Drive Mode
 • Restore to Default

The LX100 also includes a menu option (Custom/3/Direct Focus Area) to make the four-way controller give full-time access to AF point positioning. The list of custom options allow you to find new homes for three functions normally controlled by the four-way controller. Alternatively all four can also be assigned to the Q.MENU, for slightly less direct access.

Sadly the two buttons on the top of the camera (iA and Filter) cannot be re-purposed. These buttons provide access to the intelligent auto mode and select a processing filter - not features that every user is likely to want full-time access to. As a result, anyone wanting to use the four-way controller to set the AF point directly will find themselves rapidly using-up custom buttons with displaced functions, but without access to two buttons.

Q.Menu

As with the past few generations of Panasonic, the LX100 provides two styles of Q.Menu - a preset one that ranges 13 key shooting parameters along the top and bottom of the screen or a customizable one that allows you to select up to 15 options (from a list of 31) that can be arranged over three screens. This second option is our preferred method, since it lets you cluster related settings together.

The default Q.Menu ranges 13 options along the top and bottom of the screen.

Some of us found the way the four-way controller operates this menu can make it slightly fiddly.

The default Panasonic Q.Menu isn't the prettiest system - looking like the interface from a decade-old point-and-shoot. More awkwardly, the way you access options at the top of the screen (press 'down' to adjust) and the bottom (where you need to push the 'up' direction), which can be oddly disorientating if you're trying to operate the camera quickly. Perhaps this is because the option panels often take up the whole screen - confusing whether the option you're trying to change requires a 'down' or 'up' press to engage.

Changing the Q.Menu setting in the Custom menu (Page 8, Option 3), from Preset to Custom gives a customizable menu.

This custom version offers three pages, each with five positions into which your chosen settings can be placed. The 'Q' button at the bottom left allows you to change them.
• Photo Style
• Picture Size
• Quality
• AFS/AFF
• Metering Mode
• i.Dynamic
• i.Resolution
• HDR
• Shutter Type
• Flash Mode
• Flash Adjust
• i.Zoom
• Digital Zoom
• Stabilizer
• 4K Photo
• Motion Pic. Set
• Picture Mode (Movies/Stills)
• Silent Mode
• Peaking
• Histogram
• Guide Line
• Zebra Pattern
• Monochrome Live View
• Rec Area
• Zoom Lever
• Sensitivity
• Touch Screen
• AD Mode
• Burst Rate
• Auto Bracket
• Self Timer

Thankfully there's also a menu setting that instead gives you a customizable Q.Menu. This settings into three pages of five on-screen buttons. This instance of the Q.Menu always re-opens on the previously-used page, so it can be useful to set one page up for stills options and the other for movies.

The Q.Menu has traditionally appeared on cameras with touchscreens, but it works similarly well here. It's only really when you come to customizing the features in the menu that you'll notice things become a little fiddly to set up, initially.

A third means of changing settings is the camera's 'Recording information' mode, which sets out most of the camera's current parameters on the screen.

Pressing the Q.Menu button from this view makes the settings 'active' and you can use the four-way controller to navigate around them.

Overall, that's a high degree of customization to allow you to fine-tune the handling of a camera that already offers extensive direct control. However, there are several aspects of the camera's behavior where a touch screen would be useful - something we touch on more in the shooting experience section.

Video

Like several recent Panasonic cameras, the LX100 can capture 4K video. Buy, unlike the GH4, the video functions feel bolted-on, rather than integral to the camera's design.

Since the LX100 doesn't have a single exposure mode control, it also doesn't have a specific movie shooting mode. Instead movie shooting is engaged by pressing the red [REC] button on the back of the camera. Just like in stills shooting, its behavior then follows the settings on the various control dials.

The 'Picture Mode' option, which can be added to the Q.Menu or a Function button, lets you force the camera into showing the crop it will use when you start shooting video.

The only complication to this way of working is that the camera's live view, by default, shows you the still-image framing for whichever aspect ratio you've chosen from the front of the camera. To get around this, you need to access the 'Rec Area' option (either by assigning it to a button or adding it to the Q.Menu). This pushes the camera to always show a preview of the crop the camera will use for movie shooting.

During shooting, you retain access to most features, including full control over exposure. There's also the option to either use autofocus or manual focus, with focus peaking available to help assess manual focus. Focus tracking remains available during movie shooting.

Auto ISO

The LX100 offers two automatic ISO options: Auto ISO and i.ISO. Auto ISO offers less control than most of its rivals (no threshold options) and, emboldened by the camera's image stabilization, is willing to use incredibly slow shutter speeds. We found i.ISO mode to be much more effective - it still offers little in the way of user input but is intelligent in as much as it will assess the scene for movement and increase the shutter speed (and sensitivity) if it recognizes a moving subject.

Auto ISO can be combined with manual exposure mode when shooting stills, so that you can choose your shutter speed and aperture, while allowing the camera to maintain the image brightness. However, when shooting this way, the camera does not offer exposure compensation so you can't specify the brightness level it's trying to maintain. i.ISO is not available in manual mode, since part of its function requires control over shutter speed.

Auto ISO is available in movie mode but not in conjunction with manual exposure, so there's no way of using it without the camera also being able to make unwanted changes to shutter speed or aperture.