Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Review
Exposure Mode Dial Options
The LX7's exposure mode dial is set on top of the camera, and provides access to the various exposure modes, including the 'classic' PASM modes.
|Intelligent Auto mode||Point-and-shoot with automatic scene selection, face detection, subject tracking, intelligent sharpening, dynamic range improvement, and more. Many menu items are locked up.|
|Program mode||Still automatic, but with full menu access; a Program Shift option lets you use the rear dial to move through sets of aperture/shutter speed values.|
|Aperture Priority mode||You set the aperture, and the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The aperture range on the LX7 is F1.4 - F8.0.|
|Shutter Priority mode||You pick the shutter speed, and the camera selects the matching aperture. The shutter speed range is 250 - 1/4000 sec, with the really slow shutter speeds reserved for ISO 1600 and below.|
|Full manual (M) mode||You select both the aperture and the shutter speed, with the same ranges as above.|
|Creative Video mode||While you can take a movie in any shooting mode by using the dedicated button, in this mode you can adjust the aperture and/or shutter speed.|
|Custom mode 1/2||Stores a total of four sets of camera settings: one on C1, and three on C2.|
|Scene mode||You pick the scene and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait, soft skin, landscape, panorama shot, sports, night portrait, night scenery, handheld night shot, HDR, food, baby, pet, sunset, glass through (reverse those words and you'll understand), and 3D still.|
|Creative Control mode||Special effects, which can be applied to stills and videos, include expressive, retro, high key, sepia, dynamic monochrome, impressive art, high dynamic, cross process, toy effect, miniature effect, soft focus, star filter, one point (selective) color, radial defocus, and smooth defocus.|
Here's what I think are the most interesting features on the mode dial:
- Intelligent Auto mode: the best auto mode in the business in my opinion - it does everything for you, all with the push of a button; available options include automatic use of Motion Deblur, Handheld Night Shot, and HDR; there's also an iA+ mode which lets you use sliders to adjust brightness, background blur, and color tone (white balance)
|In iA+ mode you can use sliders to adjust brightness, background blur, and color tone|
- Shutter speed range: while the LX7 lacks a bulb mode, you can set the shutter speed as slow as 250 seconds (over 4 mins)
- Panorama Shot: 'sweep' the camera from side-to-side and the camera will automatically stitch things together into a panorama
- Handheld night shot: the camera takes multiple exposures and combines them into what is hopefully a sharp image; don't expect miracles, though
- HDR (high dynamic range): combines three photos, taken at different exposures, into a single image with improved contrast
- Creative Control: choose from sixteen special effects, most of which can be fine-tuned to your liking; most of them can be used for videos, in addition to stills
Panorama Shot Mode
Above you can see a panorama that I created using the aptly named Panorama Shot feature. I swept the camera from left to right and think I stopped earlier than I could have (the guide on the screen is a bit misleading). What's 'off' here are the vertical stripes visible on the right side of the photo, which was visible in panoramas I took in other places, as well. That's too bad, as the image quality is otherwise pretty good. The only serious limitation (shared with most similar functions on other cameras) is that you're limited to shooting at wideangle in this mode.
In HDR mode the camera will take three photos in a row, each at a different exposure (you can't choose what the interval is), and combines them into a single image with dramatically improved contrast. Take a look:
|HDR off||HDR on|
While I'll be first to admit that the HDR shot looks a little bit over-processed, the dramatic improvement in contrast is worth it.
The IR (Intelligent Resolution) feature selectively sharpens an image, applying sharpening to things that need it (like edges) and leaving alone things that don't (like the sky). It's off by default, except in iA mode, and you can choose from low, standard, or high levels in other shooting modes. Here's a crop of a larger photo that shows the IR feature in action:
|I.R. off||I.R. low||I.R. standard||I.R. high|
While it's not a huge change, the image above gets a bit sharper each time you crank up the level of Intelligent Resolution. For most folks, the standard setting is just fine.
The other part of the Intelligent Resolution system is Intelligent Zoom. This gives you a 2X boost in zoom power with less of a drop in image quality than traditional digital zoom. Thus, you now have an equivalent 180 mm lens at your disposal. Let's see how it looks:
|Full telephoto (90 mm)||Full telephoto + Intelligent Zoom (180 mm)|
I don't know about you, but there seems to be a pretty noticeable loss of image quality when using Intelligent Zoom (you'll have to view the full size images to see this). It's fine for small prints, but that's about it. If you don't mind lowering the image size, you'll get much nicer looking photos using the Extended Optical Zoom feature. And, if you're a real glutton for punishment, you can use both of these zoom-enhancing features at the same time!
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